PET junks Leni's bid to dismiss Marcos' poll protest

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2017 06:00 PM

Orders retrieval of ballots in Marcos pilot provinces

The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has junked Vice-President Leni Robredo’s bid to dismiss the poll protest of her erstwhile rival, former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., as it affirmed the sufficiency of form and substance of Marcos’ protest.

Robredo claimed the PET erred in finding Marcos’ protest sufficient in form and substance since Marcos allegedly failed to specify the acts or omissions that show electoral fraud, anomalies or irregularities in the precincts subject of his protest.

However, the PET dismissed Robredo’s motion for reconsideration (MR) and stood pat on its January 24, 2017 ruling finding Marcos’ protest sufficient in form and substance.

Citing the case of former vice-presidential candidate Mar Roxas vs. Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the PET said “in determining the sufficiency of the allegations of an election protest, what is merely required is a statement of the ultimate facts forming the basis of the protest.”

“[T]he tribunal finds that the allegations in the [Marcos] protest are sufficient to apprise protestee (Robredo) of the issues that she has to meet and this tribunal of the ballot boxes that have to be collected,” the PET said in a 34-page resolution, dated August 29.

The PET said there was no reason to weigh in on the arguments stated in Robredo’s MR because “these have all been duly considered and passed upon by the tribunal in the resolution dated January 24, 2017.”

Marcos lost to Robredo in the May 2016 elections by just 263,473 votes. His protest covers 39,221 clustered precincts or a total of 132,446 precincts. Robredo filed a counter-protest which covers 8,042 clustered precincts or a total of of 31,278 precincts.

RETRIEVAL, DECRYPTION OF BALLOT IMAGES FOR MARCOS PROTEST ORDERED

The tribunal also granted Marcos’ plea for the decryption and printing of ballot images in Marcos’ protest’s three pilot provinces: Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental for the physical revision or recount which will take place at the SC compound on Padre Faura.

Marcos’ plea for the inclusion of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao was deferred since Rule 65 of the PET allows the revision or recount of ballots “on the designated pilot provinces first."

“In other words, judicial economy likewise commands the tribunal to defer action on these matters until such time that the tribunal as made its initial determination of the grounds for the protest under Rule 65 of the PET Rules,” the resolution read, referring to the bid for the inclusion of Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

MARCOS’ FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION DENIED, "MAY BE DISPENSED WITH"

Marcos’ cause of action for the immediate annulment of Robredo’s proclamation as the duly elected vice-president was denied “for judicial economy and for the prompt resolution of this case (Marcos’ protest)."

This, after Marcos’ camp admitted during the preliminary conference that even if he successfully proved the first cause of action, a manual recount of votes would still be necessary to determine who obtained the highest votes for the position of vice-president.

“As admitted by Atty. Garcia (Marcos’ counsel) during the preliminary conference, the first cause of action is merely ‘complementary’ to the second and third causes of action… In other words, both these causes of action (second and third) remain intact independent of the first cause of action.

“Thus, the tribunal is left with no option but to already dismiss the first cause of action as indeed, this will not prevent the protest from continuing because [Marcos] can still prove his case through the second and third causes of action,” the resolution read.

Marcos' second cause of action is for the revision and recount of votes; his third cause of action involves the nullification of votes in the vice-presidential race in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao due to terrorism, harassment, intimidation and pre-shading of ballots.

Marcos’ camp hailed the tribunal's ruling, with his legal spokesperson Atty. Victor Rodriguez stressing, “We have the case exactly where we wanted it to be, the conduct manual recount and judicial revision and presentation of proof.”

Robredo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, meantime, said the resolution is, actually in her favor.

"Dito sa tatlong probinsya—Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental, which will be now the provinces where ballots will be retrieved—I don’t know where Mr. Marcos will get his evidence. Kasi ang sabi niya, he will just base it on the ballots. But the ballots cannot tell us, and the ballots will not speak… Kaya we are very, very happy that with this resolution of the Supreme Court, we look forward to an early dismissal of the case of Mr. Marcos and I’m confident na kapag nabasa ito ni Mr. Marcos, I’m sure that Mr. Marcos will have second thoughts on this election protest,” Macalintal said.