MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections official who is on the receiving end of Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon’s public tongue-lashing accused the poll veteran of trying to influence her decision on the high-profile disqualification case against presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino is the designated ponente or the writer of the ruling of the Marcos case in the 1st Division, of which Guanzon is the presiding commissioner. Guanzon has accused Ferolino of delaying the release of the ruling so that her vote will not be counted when she retires on February 2.
In a sharply worded letter addressed to Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas, Ferolino expressed dismay that Guanzon “consistently took liberties” in telling her to adopt Guanzon’s opinion to disqualify the dictator’s son.
Guanzon sent her separate opinion on the case on January 17.
“She is trying to influence my decision and trying hard to persuade me to her direction. But I am not like her, not even close,” the letter dated January 28 said, a copy of which leaked to the media later on Friday.
“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,” she added.
Ferolino also took offense over Guanzon’s disclosure to the media that she is the ponente in the Marcos case, saying that potentially results in a threat to her safety, and pressure from different personalities.
“I request that the appearance of Commissioner Guanzon before various media outlets and in social media sites be reviewed. Her excitement and eagerness have taken over her that she may have forgotten the sub judice rule,” Ferolino told Abas.
Battle of the letters
In another letter obtained by Rappler later on Friday, Guanzon formally asked Ferolino to explain why the ruling on the Marcos case has been delayed by 18 days. The case was raffled to Ferolino’s office on January 10.
Guanzon previously insisted that the division follow the policy to release a ruling 15 days since a case is submitted for resolution.
“I have no other conclusion than that you are deliberately delaying the release of your ponencia until after I retire in order to defeat my vote,” Guanzon wrote in the January 28 letter.
But Ferolino, in her letter to Abas, said that the Marcos case is “complex and highly rated,” because it’s three separate petitions consolidated into one.
These petitions are those filed by Martial Law survivors, party-list group Akbayan, and former Partido Federal ng Pilipinas officers. All three legal challenges against Marcos have cited his tax conviction in the 1990s as basis for his disqualification.
“The period of 15 days given to the ponencia to draft a resolution is applicable only to a single case, the same period cannot be applied to consolidated cases like the Marcos case,” Ferolino wrote.
Ferolino also disputed Guanzon’s claim that there was an internal agreement among the three 1st Division commissioners to issue a ruling on January 17, as earlier promised by Guanzon on social media.
“It was Twitter and not the commissioners who first knew of the promulgation date,” Ferolino claimed.
If there was any delay, Ferolino asserted, it was the date of the preliminary conference or dialogue on the Marcos case.
The hearing took place on January 7, but Ferolino claimed it should have been scheduled earlier if not for Guanzon’s “caprices.”
“The schedule of the proceeding was adjusted in time for her arrival in Manila because she wanted to personally take part in the proceeding and that it be broadcasted live on Facebook,” Ferolino said.
On Guanzon’s claim that Ferolino had been “incommunicado,” the younger commissioner said she had been bombarded by text messages from Guanzon, and while Ferolino was accommodating at first, she realized she had to “limit” her kindness at some point.
The only male commissioner in the 1st Division is Marlon Casquejo, who has remained silent on the Comelec drama up to now.
Casquejo and Ferolino both hail from Davao and are appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte. They rose from the Comelec ranks after decades of service.
Ferolino’s letter did not address Guanzon’s claim that a politician was trying to influence her decision on the Marcos case.
Guanzon has denied that she was referring to President Rodrigo Duterte. – with a report from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com