The Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal issued a crucial 34-page resolution dated 29 August 2017. In essence, the Court junked losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ petition to declare null and void Vice President Leny Robredo’s proclamation over unauthenticated Certificates of Canvass generated by the Consolidation and Canvass System. The rationale of the Court—for practical reasons and “prompt disposition of the case.” In junking Marcos’ first cause of action to nullify the 2016 elections, the PET said that it would be “an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect.” In effect, the PET upheld the integrity of the 2016 polls.
According to its resolution: “To be sure, the Tribunal cannot allow this exercise to even begin especially if it were to consider the amount of resources and time it will demand from the Tribunal . . . Even if protestant [Marcos] succeeds in proving his first cause of action, this will not mean that he has already won the position of vice president as this can only be determined by a manual recount of all votes in all precincts . . . And if this is a relief protestant has clearly stated he is not praying for, then, allowing the first cause of action to continue would be an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect.”
This was a big victory for Robredo and brings the protest closer to resolution in her favor.
It must, however, be pointed that the tribunal granted the Marcos’ second and third causes of action. Robredo’s camp and supporters must remain vigilant because of this.
The second cause of action requires the revision or manual recount of the actual ballots to determine the votes cast in all the 36,465 protested clustered precincts while the third Cause of Action sought the annulment of election results for the VP position in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan, on the ground of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters as well as pre-shading of ballots in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts in the areas. Accordingly, the tribunal ordered the retrieval of all the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia in three provinces that Marcos wants included in a pilot recount namely Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental to start the ballot revision. The PET also granted the motion of Marcos to decrypt and print the ballot images from the SD cards from the three pilot areas in order to aid the PET in the prompt disposition case. The three pilot provinces were chosen from the 27 provinces and highly urbanized cities listed in the election protest of Marcos.
Both counsels for the parties welcomed the PET’s ruling. Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, spokesman of Marcos, saying while they would have preferred for the Tribunal to look into the alleged anomalies in the implementation of the Automated Election System under the first cause of action, they would abide by the Tribunal’s decision in the interest of expediency. On the other hand, Romulo Macalintal, Robredo’s counsel, expressed confidence the tribunal’s decision would eventually lead to the dismissal of Marcos’ poll protest, saying the PET’s action practically affirmed the credibility of the May 2016 automated balloting.
With this resolution the vote count will now proceed on the designated areas. To make out his allegations of poll cheating supposedly perpetrated by the Robredo camp, Marcos will now have to present evidence, testimonial and documentary and go beyond the realm of speculations and unfounded allegations. This means that Marcos’ camp has to present more or less 8,100 witnesses and voluminous documents which is a daunting task by any standard. News reports have said that Marcos will now dispense with these witnesses, an admission that they have nothing to add.
Revision committees will then be constituted for the opening of the concerned ballot boxes, recount and tallying of the votes. The evidence will then be received by a hearing commissioner or commissioners designated by the tribunal. This will be followed by the filing of the parties’ respective memoranda and finally the promulgation of the tribunal’s decision.
As to when the case will be resolved, it is difficult to predict. The latest ruling is a victory for Robredo because the tribunal in effect upheld the integrity of the 2016 polls and this includes the proclamation of VP Robredo.
One must note that this is the 5th electoral protest before the PET and the last prior four protests were all dismissed when intervening events transpired which compelled the tribunal to dismiss the case. The electoral protests between Miriam Defensor-Santiago vs. Fidel Valdez Ramos in 1996, between Ronald Allan Poe vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2005, Loren B. Legarda vs. Noli L. De Castro in 2008, and Mar Roxas vs. Jejomar Binay in 2016 were all dismissed either because the protestant was subsequently elected or the protest became mooted by the results of the elections. If we go by these precedents, chances are the present Marcos electoral protest is bound to follow the same fate as its precursors.
My advice to Senator Marcos. Forget the protest. Instead, for the sake of your political future, run for the senate in 2019.
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