Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is throwing her support behind Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, saying she is well within her prerogatives to call out her fellow Commissioner Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio on the delayed release of the decision in Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s disqualification cases.
In her opinion piece entitled “Is Guanzon in the Right?” published by Rappler, De Lima said that as Presiding Commissioner of the COMELEC’s First Division, Guanzon has the authority to make sure that her commissioners meet the deadline set in COMELEC Rules on the release of decisions.
The lady Senator from Bicol said that “although it has been the long practice among COMELEC commissioners, the time period for the writing and promulgation of decisions cannot simply be left to the discretion of the commissioner-ponente”. She added that this practice is what Guanzon sought to remedy when she exercised her prerogative as Presiding Commissioner over Ferolino.
While Ferolino cried foul over what she believed as “undue rush” being done to her by Guanzon, De Lima said the former should be reminded that the Rules of Procedure of the COMELEC itself provide for a limited period in the disposition of cases.
“The period for the writing of the ponencia and its promulgation is not unlimited. In fact, it is specific. It is not the case as Ferolino would somewhat imply that commissioners have a wide discretion in the time of writing decisions,” she said.
While she admitted that the COMELEC rarely followed the deadlines on the disposition of cases, De Lima stressed that it does not mean that Ferolino was right in ignoring the deadline set by her Presiding Commissioner.
“As Presiding Commissioner, Guanzon had the authority to remind the ponente of cases in her Division on the deadline in the writing of decisions. More so in cases of this kind where a leading presidential candidate is sought to be disqualified,” she said.
“In this instance, she is fully supported by the COMELEC rules, albeit probably not by COMELEC practice,” she added.
De Lima followed through that Guanzon can hardly be blamed for announcing her position on the Marcos cases because “her actions are the consequences of a much-abused practice in the Commission where the ponente, instead of the En Banc or the Division, determines when a decision is released and promulgated despite the periods set in the COMELEC Rules”.
De Lima likewise said that she believes that Ferolino’s accusation that the other reason why she has not yet come out with a ponencia is that Guanzon is pressuring her to adopt the latter’s position that Marcos should be disqualified, is invalid.
“Unlike illegitimate influence or interference coming from outside of the Division, there is no prohibition on members of a Division trying to convince other members on the correctness of their position.
“In fact, the opposite is the principle in collegial bodies. Members are mandated to deliberate, and in their deliberation they are expected to persuade and show the other members the superiority of their opinion. This is the essence of a collegial body,” she said.
De Lima believes that it was wrong for Ferolino not to read the separate opinion of Guanzon on the Marcos disqualification cases because as a member of a collegial body, Ferolino is mandated to be informed and to consider the opinions of the other members of the First Division of the COMELEC.
According to De Lima, the COMELEC rules provide that a decision should be written only after deliberations and consultations among the members of the Division have been conducted. In the absence of deliberations, De Lima says Guanzon’s written opinion should take their place and should therefore be considered by Ferolino in the writing of her decision, instead of refusing to read it for fear of being “influenced” by Guanzon.
“In writing the ponencia, the ponente should still be guided by the opinions of her two other colleagues in the Division, not only her own”, De Lima concluded.
Guanzon, who serves as the presiding commissioner of the Comelec’s First Division that handles the three consolidated cases to stop Marcos Jr.’s presidential bid, revealed in a recent interview that she voted to disqualify the son of the late dictator.
Aside from Guanzon, other members of the First Division are Commissioner Ferolino, the ponente of the case, and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo.
Guanzon was forced to announce her vote after Ferolino allegedly failed to abide by their agreement in the First Division that the decision should be promulgated on January 17, 2022. At the very least, Guanzon wanted the decision promulgated on Monday, January 31, before her retirement on Wednesday, February 2. (30)
(Access Sen. Leila’s Opinion piece, here: https://www.rappler.com/voices/thought-leaders/opinion-is-guanzon-in-the-right/)