Comelec defends poll execs from alleged pro-Marcos bias

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25) — The Commission on Elections rejected the accusation of bias against three of its commissioners who denied a petition blocking Bongbong Marcos' presidential bid.

A group of human rights advocates represented by lawyer Theodore Te on Monday called out the supposed "manifest bias" of Commissioners Socorro Inting, Antonio Kho, Jr., and Rey Bulay of the poll body's Second Division and said they should sit out of the review of their January 17 decision dismissing the plea to cancel Marcos' certificate of candidacy. 

"Relative particularly to the accusations of bias, of course Comelec takes exception to such characterizations," poll body spokesman James Jimenez said in a Tuesday briefing. "The commission stands by the integrity of its commissioners."

Jimenez stressed that Inting, who penned the decision in question, has been with the Judiciary for 20 years, the most recent of which as Court of Appeals associate justice prior to her appointment to Comelec. She will also serve as acting poll chairman once incumbent chief Sheriff Abas retires by February 2, fellow Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said.

Jimenez added that the request for commissioners to inhibit from a case review is a common remedy sought by aggrieved parties.

"As far as treatment of this (motion for partial reconsideration) is concerned, yes it will be reviewed by the commission en banc. Whether or not anyone will inhibit will really be up to the person whose inhibition is being sought," he told reporters. "They will have to make the determination whether or not they are able to sit in judgement on the matter with the proper impartiality –– and it has happened in the past."

The poll body did not give a timeline to resolve the appeal, but Jimenez said it's unlikely to be tackled during this week's en banc hearing.

READ: No backing down for group behind junked petition to block Marcos candidacy

The appeal was also filed at a crucial time as three of seven sitting commissioners are retiring next week. It is likewise unclear if the matter will be left to the succeeding set of poll executives to resolve.

"The problem with letting incoming commissioners handle it is that there will have to be a study period, because the incoming commissioners will not have had the opportunity to actually participate in the deliberations of the case," Jimenez said. "Mag-aaral pa 'yan sila, baka mas lalong tumagal [They will have to study it and that could delay this further]."

"That will probably will be taken into consideration when the commission decides whether or not to pick this up sooner rather than later," he added.

Meanwhile, Comelec's First Division has still not released its decision on three pending disqualification cases against Marcos despite Guanzon's earlier target of a Jan. 17 announcement.

LIST: Petitions against Bongbong Marcos' 2022 presidential bid