Marcos can't use 'undervotes' in election protest: Robredo camp

ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The camp of incoming Vice President Leni Robredo insisted Sunday that Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. cannot cite the "undervote" of at least 3.2 million to protest her narrow victory in the vice presidential race.

Marcos' lawyer George Garcia earlier raised doubts on canvassing results, saying the undervote figures are too big.

"It’s true that some voters opted not to vote for a certain position and that’s normal. But take note of the percentage, that’s 3.2 million voters who did not vote for vice president," said Garcia, claiming that the undervotes were from Visayas and Mindanao.

He said they got the figure by deducting the total number of votes for the position of vice president from the total number of votes cast.

(READ: Marcos camp questions 3.2M VP 'undervote')

But Atty. Romulo Macalintal, legal counsel of Robredo, explained that the undervotes or null votes, did not come from the vice presidential race alone.

Macalintal said null votes were also tallied when voters abstain from choosing candidates for president, senators and local positions.

"Halimbawa, sa senador, 'di ba ang ibinoboto nating senator, 12? Kung lima ang iyong ibinoto, mayroong seven na undervotes o null votes. Kung bumoboto ng anim na konsehal, dalawa lang na konsehal ang iyong ibinoto, mayroon apat na konsehal na undervotes," he expounded.

Macalintal also noted that the null votes recorded in the recently concluded election is far less than the 5.1 million undervotes in the 2004 presidential elections.

He stressed that abstaining from voting for some positions is a right of voters and does not signify electoral fraud.

"Hindi iyan, wika nga, tanda ng pandaraya. At ang null votes, hindi iyan basehan ng isang election protest. Sapagkat ang nulll vote ay isang abstention. Ibig sabihin nag-abstain ang isang botante sa pagboto for a particular position," he said.

"Sa ilalim ng ating batas, iyan ay kinikilala na bahagi ng karapatan ng isang botante.... Hindi iyan palatandaan ng isang pandaraya."

'EXPENSIVE PROTEST'

An official canvass showed Friday that Marcos, 58, lost the vice presidential contest to rival Robredo by just over 263,000 votes.

But Marcos insisted Saturday he was was gathering evidence for a potential "election protest." He said that aside from the nearly 4 million undervotes, he will raise the issues of his receipt of zero votes in certain areas, and the malfunctioning of some vote-counting machines.

"The search for Senator Marcos's missing votes did not end with the canvassing," his lawyer Garcia said in a statement Saturday.

Any legal action would be made only after Robredo is proclaimed the official winner by Congress on Monday, Garcia added.

(READ: Marcos threatens legal action after loss to Robredo)

Macalintal, meanwhile, noted that mounting an election protest would take at least P100 million in legal fees, expenses in retrieving ballot boxes and compensation for election revisors.

"Kung aabutan iyan ng ilang taon, aba'y ilang taon ding gumagastos ang nagpo-protesta. Maging iyung ipino-protesta, may mga kaukulang gastos din pero hindi naman ganoon kalaki," he said.

The Marcos family had targeted the vice presidential post as a route back to Malacanang through a subsequent presidential run for the son in 2022.

"I think this election was arguably the best and probably last chance for the Marcoses to wrest back control of Malacanang," De La Salle University international affairs and political science professor Richard Javad Heydarian told Agence France-Presse.

"Six years down the road, (the) Marcoses could face a very different zeitgeist with the shadow of defeat hanging over their shoulders," Heydarian added.

"It (the loss) would make it that much harder for the Marcoses to regain power through elections," Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Economic and Political Reforms in Manila, told AFP.

Barring a reversal of the May 9 result, Marcos would have to wait for the 2019 mid-term elections to try and regain his senate seat, Casiple added.

The Marcos family fled to US exile after the bloodless revolution ended the dictator's one-man rule, in which thousands of critics were thrown in prison and $10 billion was allegedly plundered from state coffers.

The patriarch died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, but no member of the family ever served in jail for the alleged crimes.

This month the dictator's widow, Imelda Marcos, swept to a third term in the House of Representatives representing Ilocos Norte province, while their daughter Imee Marcos became provincial governor for the third straight time.

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