“The commissioner’s action has many implications.”
Before the week ended, soon-to-be retired Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon came out with her guns blazing, accusing her colleagues in the First Division of deliberately delaying the release of their decision on the petition for disqualification of leading presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
Not only did she accuse her colleagues of the delay, but she also named the designated ponencia of the case whom she accused of incompetence for having no capacity to write a pleading, and worst, she leaked her vote regarding the case describing it as a dissenting opinion.
The designated ponencia, Commissioner Aimee Feralino, fired back, denying they were deliberately delaying the resolution with the purpose of releasing it after Guanzon retires on Wednesday, February 2, saying it was the latter which caused the delay in the proceeding of the case in the first place.
According to Feralino, it was Guanzon’s decision to delay the preliminary conference to January 7 to time with her return to Manila. Thus, the calendar had to be adjusted with the case being raffled to Feralino’s office on January 10, the case records of the three cases transmitted to her office on January 12 and the consolidated formal of evidence by the respondents and the memorandum and manifestation to set Preliminary conference by the Petitioner transmitted to her office on January 14. Incidentally, it was also on January 12 when the results of the RT-PCR of the two lawyers assigned to Feralino’s office came out, showing them to be positive for COVID-19.
With the above developments on the case, Feralino denied there was an internal agreement among the commissioners to come out with the resolution on January 17, just three days after the transmission of the documents to her office.
Further causing the delay, Feralino said, was the bombardment of text messages from Guanzon, pressuring her, not only to expedite the resolution, but to also adopt her opinion.
“In all honesty Chair, it was not only the date of the promulgation that she imposed upon me. She also consistently took liberties in telling me to adopt her opinion. It is quite appalling that Commissioner Guanzon was able to draft an opinion when the Ponencia has not yet submitted the resolution and all the case records are in my possession,” Feralino said in her three-page letter.
“She even issued a Memorandum incorporating her separate opinion on a resolution that is yet to be released. The Presiding Commissioner of the 1st Division is putting the cart before the horse to justify her demands,” Feralino added.
Now, what’s the implication of Guanzon’s action?
According to lawyer Faye Singson, Guanzon’s action or statement, leaking her vote even before the ponencia has finalized the ruling, is premature, violative of the sub judice rule and highly irresponsible.
Kilusang Bagong Lipunan senatorial candidate, lawyer Larry Gadon said “Guanzon appears to be liable for violation of Section 3 (k) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which is ‘divulging valuable information of a confidential character acquired by his office or by him on account of his official position to unauthorized persons or releasing such information in advance, of its authorized released date, when she named Feralino as the case’s ponencia, which is punishable by imprisonment of 1 to 10 years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.”
Surely, Guanzon is aware of this. She may appear to be arrogant to some people who view her as a narcissist, but we have to admit she is a good lawyer. How could the experience of former Supreme Court Justice Ruben Reyes have escaped her memory?
In the case of Reyes, the high court permanently barred the magistrate from holding public office and imposed a P500,000 penalty for breach of confidentiality and leakage of internal documents. Reyes was found responsible for the leak of his draft decision on the citizenship case of Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong to one of the parties.
And I’m pretty sure Guanzon knows the possible repercussions of what she is doing and yet she is willing to risk it all. She is inviting all kinds of lawsuits slapped on her.
She keeps crying Marcos should be disqualified when she knows deep in her heart the basis she is citing are clearly off-tangent. She keeps saying Marcos is not qualified as he was convicted of a crime. “Convict, convict! How can we allow a convict to be elected president?” she cries.
But if BBM was convicted, how come he was not sent to prison, Gadon asks.
While it is true, the Regional Trial Court found BBM guilty, sentencing him to 18 months in prison, Gadon says this was overturned by the Court of Appeals which removed the prison sentence and only meted a penalty for non-filing of income tax return. This was upheld by the SC which declared that BBM did not commit tax evasion but non-filing of ITR which is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
“So, whose ruling will be enforced,” asks Gadon, “that of the RTC or the CA and the Supreme Court?”
“There is no issue of conviction,” Gadon avers, adding that the very reason why there is a Court of Appeals is to correct a wrong decision rendered by a lower court, and a Supreme Court to render the final ruling.
“Such intellectual dishonesty bordering on gross ignorance of the law. A judgment of conviction that was appealed did not attain finality and a conviction that never became final is no conviction at all,” he adds.
“In legal parlance, law professors know that when a decision of a lower court is reversed, it is referred to as ‘overturned,’ meaning expunged,” Gadon explains.
Again, I’m sure Guanzon, being a good lawyer and a law professor, is aware of this. But she just won’t care whatever risks she faces. And it is for these reasons that I think she may be up to something. Maybe she wants to assume the role of a poster girl of the opposition – the face of the opposition.
She knows Leni Robredo doesn’t stand a chance against BBM, who won’t be disqualified as no less than the SC has clarified his case (And there is no way she doesn’t know this).
So, she has to start taking control of the situation, rally the opposition and whoever among their supporters are left to an issue closest to them – the Marcos issue. As such, she has to make an impact this early.
Days before she retires, she issued an ultimatum to Feralino as if she is her subordinate. Maybe she had forgotten that in 2016, she lashed at former Comelec chair Andy Bautista for ordering her to come up with the resolution on the Grace Poe citizenship issue, telling him they were co-equal in position.
And if this day, Monday ends without Feralino coming up with the resolution, she will be expected to weave tall tales in support of her allegations.
And expect her afterwards to take a prominent role in the opposition. With Robredo vowing out of the limelight after noon of June 30, she will be thrusted as the opposition’s leading personality.
And she has three years to prepare for the next national elections and six years for the topmost post. That, I think, is her play. But that is assuming she will be able to muster the support she needs to thwart disbarment, disqualification from holding public office and possible imprisonment.