MANILA, Philippines—The lead counsel of Aga Muhlach has described as “baseless and frivolous” allegations made by the camp of suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia that the Court of Appeals’ speedy issuance of a temporary restraining order in favor of the actor was tainted with “political bias.”
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal called on Garcia and her daughter and counsel Cristina Codilla-Frasco “to rely on the strength of their own evidence and arguments,” adding that the cases of Muhlach and Garcia were “poles apart or very different from each other.”
“The facts and the laws applicable are not the same as well as the remedies resorted to by their respective lawyers before the Court of Appeals. It was a sheer coincidence that their cases were assigned in the same division presided over by Associate Justice Vicente Veloso,” Macalintal said in a statement.
The division is hearing two cases: Garcia’s suspension by Malacañang and Muhlach’s delisting from the voters’ list by a regional court in Camarines Sur.
Garcia’s camp had asked Veloso to inhibit himself from the case. Frasco lamented the “inordinate delay” of the division chaired by the justice in issuing a TRO that her mother had sought long ago.
Frasco complained that there was “something amiss” when the court granted the TRO for Muhlach’s case the same day of the oral arguments were held while it took the tribunal 40 days to deny Garcia’s plea for TRO.
Macalintal, however, protested the comparison.
“Such an allusion is not only an affront to the integrity of our justice system but to the integrity and competence of Muhlach’s lawyers who religiously and dutifully prepared and argued the latter’s case before the court,” he said.
“We want to make it clear and of record that we sincerely and honestly believe on the merits of Muhlach’s case, which was the primary consideration why we accepted this professional engagement. There was no political or any kind of consideration involved when we filed the case and subsequently obtained the TRO from the court,” Macalintal added.
The lawyer said Garcia’s case involved “more of a procedural matter” where she raised the issue that the suspension order was allegedly “served beyond the prescriptive period provided for by law.” On the other hand, Muhlach’s case involves substantial matter involving “a very clear case of grave abuse of discretion committed by the RTC when it changed the meaning of the law on voter registration,” according to Macalintal.
Macalintal said Muhlach’s camp was able to convince the court on the urgency of issuing the TRO immediately after the oral argument on Jan. 15 because the Commission on Elections was poised to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Muhlach on the following day.
The actor would have suffered grave and irreparable injury as his name would not be on the ballots, which have been scheduled for printing by the Comelec, Macalintal added.