MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa requested to be taken off as member-in-charge in the high-stakes vice presidential electoral protest, but the en banc unanimously rejected his request, Rappler has learned.
According to a court insider, Caguioa wrote in an internal memo to the en banc sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to ask for a re-raffle of the case. Caguioa is the member-in-charge but former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr asked that the justice inhibit from the entire case citing alleged bias.
Instead of inhibiting, Caguioa instead asked for a re-raffle, which would allow him to retain his voting rights, but would give the lead to another justice. The member-in-charge typically controls the pace, and to an extent, the direction of the case.
Another court insider said the en banc decided there was no valid reason for Caguioa to be removed as member-in-charge, and that being at the center of a media controversy or being possibly the subject of attacks on the internet are not sufficient basis.
Furthermore, the source said the en banc did not want to set a precedent of a member-in-charge unloading cases just because they are controversial.
As of this writing, Caguioa remains lead in the PET case.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, the SC's Public Information Office (PIO) confirmed the en banc's unanimous decision, as it warned media that Caguioa's letter was an internal memorandum that should not have been published.
Marcos said he had read “nasty” messages posted on a Viber group by Caguioa’s wife which allegedly show bias against him.
"However, after reading the nasty Viber messages of Caguioa’s wife, [Marcos] realized that Caguioa would be hard-pressed to be impartial and render justice with the cold neutrality expected from a Judge,” Marcos said in his motion submitted to the SC asking Caguioa to inhibit.
The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo said the move against Caguioa is just another delaying tactic.
Right now, the PET is resolving Robredo's appeal to apply a 25% shading threshold. The PET earlier rejected this and instead said a 50% shading threshold shall apply. Robredo appealed it.
“So if they are trying to cast doubt on the impartiality of Justice Caguioa, then this is actually proof that he doesn't favor anyone because the use of the 50% threshold has been very unfavorable actually to the Vice President," said Robredo’s legal consultant Emil Marañon in a recent interview. – Rappler.com