Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa sought to inhibit himself from the Bongbong Marcos vice presidential electoral protest case against Leni Robredo, yet he goes to the SC to resolve his problem of his claimed desire to recuse himself from the case, as well as be relieved from his position in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) as lead justice and ponente.
The High Court justices came to Caguioa’s immediate rescue as the Court unanimously denied his request to inhibit himself from this vice-presidential electoral protest.
The SC-PET issued a one-page statement that “contrary to these reports, there has been no change in the management” of the Marcos protest against Vice President Robredo under PET Case 0005.
Earlier, there was a report stating that Caguioa had requested, in a letter to acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, his inhibition from the Marcos-Robredo electoral case.
The SC warned against the release in earlier media reports of Caguioa’s request. But even as it did, the High Court confirmed that Caguioa did make the request that, however, was denied “unanimously.”
But that’s a pretty strange move from both Caguioa and his colleagues in the High Court, when compared to other cases where the judges and justices make their own decision to inhibit themselves and do not go to the SC for it to accept or reject these magistrates’ moves to inhibit themselves from cases, on their own steam, or refuse to inhibit even if the prosecutors or defendants/respondents seek their inhibition.
It has been made clear in the past that the recusal of a justice or judge depends on them and that decision is not resolved by the entire SC.
Recall the time when at least five SC associate justices were asked to inhibit themselves by the then Chief Justice, the now ousted Lourdes Sereno, from the quo warranto case filed by Solicitor-General Jose Calida.
The five justices refused to inhibit themselves from the case against Sereno and their decision not to inhibit from the case was not brought before the High Court for the Court to reject or approve.
It has always been drummed into the heads of many that inhibition from a case is the sole decision of the judge or justice—unless, of course, it becomes blatantly clear that proven specious moves have been made by the magistrate to either convict or acquit the accused, in which case these judges get the boot from the SC.
Why, then, does Caguioa go to the SC and request it to allow him to inhibit himself from the case and also relieve him as lead justice and ponente from this very public poll protest of Marcos against Robredo?
Apparently, Caguioa does not really want to inhibit himself but has used this request for “permission” to inhibit himself in a bid to get his colleagues in the High Court to “absolve” him on allegations of “bias and bad faith and conspiracy” that he calls fake news and all for Caguioa to come off smelling as a rose and in essence, cleared by the High Court of all these allegations and whatever charges may come.
This may have been Caguioa’s reason for seeking “permission” from the High Court to recuse himself from the protest case when he did not need to do so.
In his letter, Caguioa pointed out that “a great number of fake news have circulated alleging all sorts of conspiracy and bad faith on my part” from the time the case landed in his chambers two years ago.
So why seek permission for his inhibition if he truly believes that he is not biased?
But why does he refer to the allegations from the Marcos camp of his bias and that of his wife being an avid supporter of Leni Robredo, which even had the proof in a Facebook entry and still call this fake news? Isn’t she anti-Marcos? Aren’t his past dissenting opinions reflective of his views, if not bias? And that’s fake news?
A judge or justice usually inhibits himself or herself if an accused or respondent/defendant is a relative or a close associate.
That used to be the justification of justices who displayed delicadeza or a sense of propriety despite their not having received any motion from prosecutor or defendant to recuse themselves.
Yet here comes Caguioa, seeking the entire SC members to decide for him whether or not he should inhibit himself while claiming that the allegations and other negative reports are fake news.
So he gets his colleagues to unanimously deny his request for inhibition and use this denial by the SC to clear him of allegations of bias and bad faith while passing these allegations and even proof as fake news?
But that doesn’t change anything for Caguioa. It is not for the SC justices to clear him of bias and bad faith allegations.
In the end, it is still the perception of the public that will clear or condemn him.