It is a storm in a teacup but a storm nonetheless.
I refer to the disqualification (DQ) case of BBM pending in the First Division of the COMELEC. A petition was filed to disqualify BBM for his alleged failure to file and pay income taxes for 4 consecutive years during the Marcos years. BBM was reportedly found guilty and fined which fine he apparently did not pay.
The First Division is presided by Atty. Rowena Guanzon with Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Marion Casquejo as the two other members. Atty. Guanzon, a feisty Miriam Santiago wanna be, was appointed by ex-President Nonoy Aquino. Her term expires this Wednesday Feb. 2 2022. The other two Commissioners were appointed by Pres. Duterte. Atty. Ferolino was designated as “ponente” meaning she is tasked with writing the majority opinion of the Division.
As the Presiding Officer Atty. Guanzon has been chasing Atty. Ferolino to finalize her ponencia so the case can be decided before she retires. It is a matter of professional pride that she leaves her office with “zero backlog” in cases under her oversight. Atty. Ferolino has apparently been dodging her calls which prompted Guanzon to release her own opinion without waiting for the collective decision of the Division. Atty. Guanzon opined that BBM should be disqualified for “moral turpitude”.
The ”premature” release of Atty. Guanzon’s opinion was attacked by the Partido Federal of BBM. The party’s lawyer, George Briones, accused Guanzon of politicking and seeking to publicly influence the First Division’s decision. He called her resolution a “minority opinion”. Why did Briones term it so when there was still no decision from the other two Commissioners? Did he have inside information how the latter would vote?
This is the stuff of Deep Throat. Who is behind the shenanigans? Who would benefit from a delay in the release of the majority decision? Is it BBM? Nobody accused BBM of meddling until Briones lost his cool. Sir, thou protesteth too much. Atty. Guanzon said a Senator has reached out to Ferolino to slow walk the proceedings but it was not Imee Marcos, her “friend” and seat mate in law school.
There are only two possible outcomes to the COMELEC petition: Either BBM is upheld or not. If the former BBM would want the decision penned earlier not later. If unfavorable, BBM will immediately challenge it in the Supreme Court and the sooner he does this the better. An early SC decision even if unfavorable would give BBM enough time for say Imee or Liza to substitute for him. In short it is not in BBM’s interest to delay the COMELEC proceedings.
Did the President have anything to do with this messy affair? Presidential legal counsel Panelo denied his client had anything to do with it. Hmmm. In this town very little goes down politically without PPRD knowing about it. Malacanang may not have instigated the matter but probably let it run. Let BBM sweat for the seduction of his daughter. Ultimately, however, he would probably want Marcos upheld. The latter’s DQ could usher the victory of Leni who is polling second in the surveys; which would be his nightmare. The votes of BBM could move to Isko or Pacquiao but this is not a sure thing. His best bet now is settling up with BBM. For Duterte, better the devil you know than the one you don’t.
(The President still has another shot but a long one. That would be for the elections to take place with BBM and Sara winning, BBM getting disqualified by the SC after May which would mean Sara becoming President. That still leaves his henchmen in the lurch in a Sara Administration but a least he would have a family member in the Palace.)
If not PPRD nor BBM then who? Atty. Guanzon hinted at the involvement of a political party with no presidential candidate. This would suggest the Cusi faction of PDP Laban. The word on the street is that this faction is negotiating with BBM for protection in his Administration. This faction has some influence on Ferolino and Casquejo, the two other Commissioners in the First Division. They were instrumental in securing their appointments. As the story goes, in exchange for BBM’s protection the PDP Laban cabal will get the two do throw out the DQ case. The deal is possibly not yet finalized which explains the delay in the release of the opinion.
The stick in the mud is that Sara is against any clemency for this Macanang lot. It is possibly the one condition she extracted from BBM before agreeing to be his partner. BBM is therefore caught between a rock and a hard place. A gun, albeit admittedly small bore, is being put to his head by one side but he is committed to his running mate on the other.
Speaking of rocks (or its translation in the vernacular) Guanzon intimated that the Senator who intervened with Ferolino to delay the case has ties to the PDP Laban Cusi faction. There is only one who fits that description. He is the same person who was hauled in at the last minute to be its presidential candidate but subsequently dropped out.
Incidentally, this is not the first time that PDP-Laban has sought to seek COMELEC relief. They recently filed a case in this august body for something or the other but this was thrown out. These guys are desperate as the clock ticks down and they see their options run out.
The action of Atty. Guanzon will not change the electoral landscape. Ultimately the DQ matter will be decided by the Supreme Court with the voting public in the backdrop. What Atty. Guanzon accomplished is to highlight the opaqueness in our judiciary and the corruption that it hides. For this she deserves to be commended.
The BBM camp made the mistake of reacting to the Guanzon affair. Why get riled up with a minority dissenting opinion whenever released? It is not their fight yet they are making it theirs. This is seemingly an issue between certain members of the PDP Laban and the COMELEC, about possible pay-offs in exchange for party favors. So, Liza, restrain your attack dogs. Their barks simply reinforce the negative narrative on the Marcos’.
BBM’s best defense is in the court of public opinion, the higher his poll numbers the harder it will be to overturn the national will. The BBM camp should therefore focus on expanding his base but equally important on reaching out to the unconverted. If he truly wants to unify the country as he claims BBM should engage those who fear what he represents, who see in him the evils of his father. I refer to the Makati Business Clubs of this world. His message: I come in peace. I know you do not like me for what you believe my father has done; but let us have a conversation. I do not fear you but neither should you fear me. Tell me your concerns and your suggestions, bring me your best and your brightest to work for the nation and let us see if we can move forward with that. We will not always agree but we must try if we want to make this country great again.
I do not know if BBM has it in him to do that, to enter the lion’s den and possibly be rebuffed. If Jessica Soho was a bridge too far maybe that is too much to ask. But that is what leadership is about. We shall find out whether he truly is the leader he wants to be.