No re-raffle of VP poll protest case: SC

MANILA — The Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has denied the request of Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa to inhibit and re-raffle to other magistrates the election protest case filed by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Caguioa is the justice in-charge of Marcos’ election protest, which is currently pending before the PET.

A newspaper report said Caguioa wrote a two-page letter-memorandum addressed to Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and the other justices of the En Banc, that he will just inhibit himself as ponente and will continue to participate in the case, prior to Marcos’ filing of a motion for his inhibition.

“Contrary to these reports, there has been no change in the management of PET Case No. 0005 as the request was denied unanimously,” the SC Public Information Office said in a statement.

“Reference has been made in the news items to a document that is both internal and privileged and which could only have been obtained or accessed unofficially. In the past, the Court has dealt severely with individuals and court personnel who have leaked privileged and confidential matters as well as pending matters,” it added.

The High Court also asked the media to be more circumspect and discerning in reporting unofficial and pending matters that have yet to be acted upon as they may mislead the public.

Marcos has earlier accused Caguioa of “evident bias and manifest partiality” in favor of Robredo.

In a two-page letter, Caguioa pointed out that “a great number of fake news have circulated alleging all sorts of conspiracy and bad faith on my part” ever since the case landed in his chambers two years ago.

He was accused of delaying the proceedings, such as the manual recount or revision of votes which began only in April, to which he defended himself by saying it was not his fault but attributed the delay to the renovation of the SC-Court of Appeals Gym, the venue for the recount, as well as the hiring and training of PET personnel.

“Even as it is crystal clear to me that I should no longer be the member-in-charge, I find myself in a quandary in the absence of any motion to inhibit [at that time] filed against me. As I am certain that I am not biased or partial for or against me. As I am certain that I am not biased or partial for or against any of the parties, I do not have basis, nor do I believe, that I should voluntarily inhibit myself.

“Meaning, as an unbiased judge, with the duty to dispense justice fairly and evenly, I cannot, in good conscience, inhibit myself and thereby lose the right to register a vote or an opinion on any future matter that may arise in the protest and revision process,” Caguioa said.

Last August 6, Marcos filed a 13-page extremely urgent motion to inhibit, accused Caguioa of bias towards the “yellow brigade” as he took note that the magistrate has close ties with former President Benigno Aquino III.

Prior to his appointment to the SC in 2016, Caguioa served as Justice Secretary during Aquino’s term.

The PET is currently holding a manual vote recount that covers Marcos’ protest’s three pilot provinces: Iloilo, Camarines Sur, and Negros Oriental. All three are known bailiwicks of Robredo.

On June 29, 2016, Marcos filed the protest, claiming that Robredo’s camp cheated in the automated polls in May that year.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clusters, covering 27 provinces and cities.

Robredo won the vice presidential race in the May 2016 polls with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos’ 14,155,344 votes.

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