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Bongbong accuses PET of unfair handling of poll protest

Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday slammed what he perceived as unfair actions of the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), in connection with his poll protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Marcos specifically criticized Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the magistrate in charge of the case, whom he accused of favoring Robredo.

“Nadidismaya ako sa mga desisyon na natatanggap namin kay Justice Caguioa dahil halatang halata naman na pumapanig siya doon sa kabila,” the former senator said at a weekly media forum in Manila.

Marcos said the series of decisions issued by the PET on his election protest clearly demonstrated the bias of Caguioa against him.

“It has now become fairly obvious that his resolutions are biased against me and biased in favor of my oppositor,” Marcos said.

The 15-member tribunal earlier dismissed Marcos’ appeal to allow the technical examination of the voters' signatures in each of the 2,756 clustered precincts in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan, the results of which Marcos wanted to be annulled, until the termination of the recount of ballots from the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

The former senator had asked for a technical examination in three Mindanao provinces allegedly because of the existence of fake voters.

The PET also allowed Robredo to be furnished soft copies of the ballots and reports from the decrypted secure digital (SD) cards from Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental even if she did not shoulder a single centavo for the process.

It was Marcos who paid for the cost of decryption and printing of ballot images from the pilot provinces amounting to P2,974,075.

Protest fee

Marcos recalled that as early as April 2017, the PET gave him only two working days to pay his initial P36 million protest fee. He managed to comply with the required fee because under the PET Rules, his protest would be dismissed if he failed to pay on time.

Robredo, on the other hand, did not to pay on the deadline set by the PET but the tribunal gave her an extension.

“Yung aking kalaban pinagbayad siya sa counter-protest niya na P7 million pero hindi sya nagbayad. Pero binigyan sya ng extension. Pero hindi pa rin nakapagbayad at dinefer pa rin. Sa batas sinasabi kapag hindi pa nakapagbayad, ididismiss na yung kaso,” he said.

To this day, Robredo has still not managed to fully complete the payment of her P15.44-million deposit.

Another instance was when the PET ordered Marcos to produce 8,000 witnesses for his third cause of action (annulment of votes in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan) within a non-extendable period of five days. 

However, after his legal team complied with the order and submitted the names of the 8,000 witnesses within the non-extendable five day period, Caguioa allegedly deferred the resolution of his motion.

“We produced 8,000 witnesses within five days.  Pinuyatan namin iyan just to comply with his Order.  Pero anong ginawa? Imbes na i-take up, dinefer because siguro they hoped that kung hindi kami maka come up ng 8,000 witnesses, ididismiss na lang pero nakapagproduce kami kaya hindi nila madismiss,” Marcos said.

“I do not feel that we are getting justice in the Tribunal thus far with this decisions of Justice Caguioa. Kaya palagay ko masyado na obvious. We tried to give him a chance. I have great respect for the justices and we always give them the benefit of the doubt. Kahit we don’t agree with the decisions, we still comply but the Rules do not seem to apply to the other side,” he added.

Replace Caguioa

Marcos’ camp has yet to decide on what legal option to take to address the issue of “unfair treatment” by the PET through its justice in charge, Caguioa, a classmate and appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III.

Caguioa also briefly served as Justice secretary during the Aquino administration.

The former senator said one option is to ask the PET to replace Caguioa.

“I don’t know if that’s what we would be doing. But we should definitely do something para maging pantay at matapos na ito,” Marcos said.

Sought for reaction, SC spokesperson Theodore Te said: “Same as before, we don’t comment on political statements.”

Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 election which the former senator claimed was marred by fraud. —ALG/RSJ, GMA News