A classmate of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd at the Supreme Court (SC) is set to handle an election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
This development could give Robredo, now the highest elected official of Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), an edge over Marcos, who claims he was cheated in the vice presidential race in the May 9 elections.
Marcos’ case accusing Robredo and the LP of election fraud went to Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa via raffle last July 1, an unimpeachable source at the SC told The Manila Times.
Caguioa and Aquino were classmates from elementary to college at Ateneo de Manila University. Caguioa was Aquino’s sixth appointee to the high tribunal, and was previously Justice secretary and chief presidential legal counsel.
Caguioa was reportedly prevailed upon by Aquino to be his last appointee to the SC after Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr. was persuaded to retire ahead of schedule on January 16, to skirt the ban on appointments during the election period.
Another SC source predicted there would be a “huge fear” that Aquino would approach Caguioa to see to it that Marcos won’t wrest the vice presidency from Robredo, whose top campaign donor was the former president’s celebrity sister Kris Aquino.
“Mabuti na lang [It’s good that] the Supreme Court is a collegial body. The SC justices will see to it that there will be a just and fair ruling,” the SC source pointed out.
The court en banc sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) in hearing election protests involving the posts of President and Vice President, in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.
While Caguioa is also a classmate of Marcos’ lawyer-wife Liza Araneta-Marcos, Caguioa has closer relations with Aquino, the source said.
Only the PET has the power to determine whether Robredo should be unseated as Vice President, and could order an election recount.
The PET, composed of the Chief Justice and 14 associate justices, had handled protests involving the hotly contested vice-presidential races between Sen. Loren Legarda and Vice President Noli de Castro in 2004 and former Interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd and Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2010. Both cases were effectively abandoned after Legarda and Roxas ran for senator and President, respectively.
Robredo was proclaimed winner of the vice-presidential race with 14,418,817 votes, or 263,473 votes ahead of Marcos.
Marcos, son and namesake of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, lodged his 1,000-page petition on June 29, the day before Robredo took her oath of office.
Marcos is seeking an immediate ballot recount as well as the examination, system audit and verification of the voters’ receipts, election returns and related election documents.
Attached to Marcos’ petition are 20,000 pages of affidavits, certificates of canvass and other documents supposedly pointing to the manipulation of results done through a supposed conspiracy among the Liberal Party, the Aquino administration, the Commission on Elections and automated vote-counting machine provider Smartmatic Corp.
Marcos questioned the results in 39,221 clustered precincts in 25 provinces and five highly urbanized cities.