Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Last month, presidential aspirant and ex-Senator Bongbong Marcos (BBM) declined an invitation to participate in a television program hosted by Jessica Soho on the GMA-7 network. Soho planned to pit BBM against his visible rivals in the presidential race.

The BBM camp considered Soho a biased moderator. Soho was expected to harass BBM with questions about personal issues rather than about the platform of government of the candidates. Rather than getting badgered by Soho, BBM opted not to be part of Soho’s charade.

True to expectations, online trolls of Vice President Leni Robredo, who is also running for President, flooded social media and a notoriously anti-Marcos daily newspaper with comments about BBM being a coward, and non sequitur remarks against BBM’s father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

BBM did not dignify those unfounded tirades.

Last week, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) organized a similar TV forum for some candidates for President, including BBM, who is leading; the egotistical Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso; take-two presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo Lacson; the punch-drunk and hollow-minded Senator Manny Pacquiao; and the quintessential political opportunist Robredo.

Journalists handpicked by the KBP were to ask the questions. How and why they were chosen for the job was not explained by the KBP.

Four of the five candidates attended, save for BBM, who begged off on account of a previous commitment.

As usual, the Robredo trolls called BBM a coward and flooded social media and the same anti-Marcos newspaper with their vile comments.

Again, the BBM camp rightfully ignored those remarks.

Actually, the KBP suffers from zero credibility, and is perceived in the broadcast industry as a useless organization.

Just ask GMA-7. In 2003, GMA-7 withdrew its membership from the KBP, apparently because KBP regulations on the volume of advertising for each broadcast hour are too strict. Since then, GMA-7 has been operating outside of the KBP, and rakes in big money from the endless commercials it airs.

After the ABS-CBN broadcasting empire failed to obtain a renewal of their legislative franchise in 2020, ABS-CBN (which remains a member of the KBP) entered into an illegal deal with Zoe Broadcasting. That deal allowed ABS-CBN to broadcast its programs in Zoe’s TV channel, which was renamed the A2Z Channel.

The deal is illegal because the legislative franchise of Zoe does not allow it to lend or lease its franchise to another entity without the prior written consent of Congress. No such consent has been obtained.

 Like the useless Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba of the National Telecommunications Commission who has not done anything to address the illegal use of the Zoe TV franchise, the KBP has done nothing about the said anomaly.

If the KBP can’t even live up to its self-imposed responsibility of promoting professionalism in Philippine broadcast media, it has no business organizing a TV forum on presidential candidates just to promote itself to the public as a respectable institution.

No wonder BBM did not attend the KBP TV forum.

BBM is very much ahead in the surveys, and his many supporters will certainly vote for him, even if he does not appear in any TV forum. Attending the KBP affair will only entice the other candidates and the journalists present to gang up on BBM needlessly, and for the most unfair and unfounded of reasons.

Anti-BBM partisans will never vote for BBM regardless of what BBM says in the KBP forum. Attending the forum will be an utter waste of time for BBM.

Even the quality of the information the KBP forum will actually convey to the public is meaningless.

Do the Math. Six candidates in an estimated 90-minute program are expected to discuss the reasons why the electorate should vote for them. Considering the time allotted to advertisements; the questions to be asked by the journalists; and the usual marginal comments and interruptions, each candidate has an aggregate of just about 6 to 8 minutes to deliver his spiel. That’s a useless way to convince voters. Each candidate is better off speaking in small gatherings where he has the forum for himself.

It is also incorrect to call BBM a coward.

After being forcibly exiled abroad in the wake of the 1986 EDSA Revolution, BBM willingly returned to the Philippines, aware that he will be prosecuted and persecuted under President Corazon Aquino’s vindictive government. BBM was not afraid to face the music. For me, that is enough reason not to call BBM a coward.

In my view, Leni Robredo is the real coward. Robredo isn’t even honest enough to admit that she is not really the “independent” candidate for President she claims to be, but a bet of the much-despised Liberal Party. That’s cowardice, period.

Dealing with Rowena Guanzon

As of today, Atty. Rowena Guanzon is a retired commissioner of the Commission on Elections.

But before her day of retirement, Guanzon prematurely announced to the media her vote in three disqualification cases against presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos filed before the Comelec’s First Division, which Guanzon heads. Guanzon revealed she voted to disqualify BBM.

What Guanzon did is illegal because the decision of the First Division was not yet officially out when she spoke to the media.

Section 3(k) of the anti-graft law prohibits a government official from releasing confidential information to the public in advance of its authorized release date. Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes a government official who releases, without proper authorization, a decision of a government agency before it is officially released.

Guanzon also announced that the ponente of the BBM cases, Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, was delaying the release of the First Division’s final decision, long enough to overtake Guanzon’s compulsory retirement on February 2, 2022.

According to Guanzon, Ferolino is waiting for Guanzon to retire so that Guanzon’s separate anti-BBM vote in the disqualification cases will be meaningless.

The law provides that a vote cast by a commissioner in a given election case is valid as long as the decision is released to the public before that commissioner retires from service.

Ferolino is the ponente of the Comelec First Division handling a consolidation of Marcos disqualification cases. She says “minor issue” with retired commissioner Guanzon won’t affect polls.”

Ferolino denies Guanzon’s accusation. According to Ferolino, Guanzon had been trying to influence Ferolino to vote against BBM. Having had enough of Guanzon’s anomalous overtures, Ferolino had been avoiding Guanzon’s overtures.

I have gone through the pertinent laws and I found nothing which requires Ferolino to release the decision of the First Division before Guanzon’s compulsory retirement.

When the disqualification cases were filed against BBM and raffled off to the First Division of the Comelec, Guanzon was fully aware of the possibility that her compulsory retirement may overtake the final resolution of those cases. Guanzon, therefore, cannot complain that Ferolino is taking so long to release the decision of the First Division.

It is also not Ferolino’s fault that Guanzon must retire on February 2, 2022.

It seems to me that Guanzon wants the First Division to work within the time frame circumscribed by the date of her compulsory retirement. The egotistical Guanzon probably thinks she is the Comelec.

Guanzon also announced that a certain senator has been trying to influence her to rule in favor of BBM. Although Guanzon did not identify the senator, she stressed that it isn’t Senator Imee Marcos.

Adding fuel to the controversy, Guanzon said that if Ferolino does not officially release the decision of the First Division before Guanzon’s retirement on February 2, Guanzon will reveal the identity of the meddling senator.

That threat is puzzling.

Why should Guanzon’s legal duty to expose the senator’s name be dependent on whether or not Ferolino releases the decision of the First Division before February 2? Guanzon should name the senator regardless of whether or not Ferolino releases the decision before February 2.

Now that Guanzon is no longer with the Comelec, criminal and administrative cases can be pursued against her.

As I said earlier, Guanzon can be charged under Section 3(k) of the anti-graft law, and under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code.

Disbarment charges can also be filed against Guanzon for behaving in a manner unbecoming of a member of the legal profession.

Disbarment:

  1. [AP1] extreme process or measure of discipline of an attorney, which is taking away his/her license to practice law, often for life. 
  2. “The practice of law is not a right but a privilege bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for the conferment of such privilege” (Bongolonta v. Castillo, 240 SCRA 310 [1951]).
  3. “Proceedings for disbarment, suspension or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio, or by Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), upon the verified complaint of any person. 

 [AP1]

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