MANILA – Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to “immediately dismiss” defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr’s election protest because of failure to show “substantial recovery” in the initial recount.
The PET must also order Marcos to “present evidence” to justify resort to a technical examination of the ballots in 3 Mindanao provinces should it allow the protest to proceed to Marcos’ third cause of action seeking to annul the election results there, Robredo added.
Robredo won the 2016 vice presidential polls with a lead of some 263,000 against Marcos but the PET’s initial recount last year showed her winning margin even grew by more than 15,000 votes.
“Plainly speaking, the revision, recount and re-appreciation of the ballots merely confirmed that protestant Marcos lost during the 09 May 2016 National and Local Elections,” Robredo said in her 212-page memorandum dated December 19, 2019.
“Surely, there is sufficient factual and legal basis to conclude that ‘(f)or failure of protestant to make out his case, no basis exists to continue with the proceedings in this election contest,’ and ‘(t)he Protest should be dismissed for protestant’s failure to make out a case using his pilot provinces,’” Robredo said, citing the dissenting opinions of retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Supreme Court Associate Justice Afredo Benjamin Caguioa in the PET’s October resolution giving both parties the chance to comment on the results of the initial recount.
Supreme Court magistrates sit as the PET in deciding election protests for the presidential and vice-presidential posts.
Robredo invoked Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules where a protest may be dismissed “without further consideration of the other provinces” if the protestant will most probably fail to make out his case after the initial recount involving 3 provinces.
She said Marcos himself agreed during the preliminary conference of the poll protest that if he cannot show any substantial recovery from the recount in the provinces he has chosen – Negros Oriental, Camarines Sur and Iloilo – his protest will be dismissed.
Despite the results of the initial recount, Robredo claimed that more votes should have been counted in her favor, including 848 votes deducted from her despite lack of evidence from the Marcos camp and ballots allegedly showing overvoting or markings.
OPPOSING MARCOS’ THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
The vice president opposed Marcos’ move asking the tribunal to proceed to his third cause of action – annulment of election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao supposedly on the ground of terrorism, intimidation, and pre-shading of ballots.
She cited 2 previous rulings by the PET in August 2017 and July 2019 which deferred ruling on Marcos’ motion for technical examination in these 3 provinces until after initial determination of the grounds of the protest, following Rule 65.
A technical examination involves comparing the signatures and thumbprints of voters in the voters’ registration record (VRR) as against the election day computerized voters’ list (EDCVL).
Robredo had earlier argued that going to the third cause of action is Marcos’ way of saving his dying election protest as it will, in effect, create new pilot provinces.
“To reiterate, a dangerous precedent is set where a protestant is allowed to unduly expand his pilot precincts, or in this case, pilot provinces,” she said in her memorandum.
Robredo warned the annulment of election results is “extraordinary” and will have “dire consequences” as it will disenfranchise voters.
Marcos, in his memorandum submitted to the PET in December, claimed he could still overcome Robredo’s lead of 263,473 votes because she allegedly stands to lose 497,985 votes if the election results in the 3 Mindanao provinces were annulled.
Robredo also questioned Marcos’ claims of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters as well as pre-shading of ballots, noting that there no reports from any government agency including the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“The fact that allegations of fraud are belatedly raised weeks after an election and are already based on template affidavits of a protestant’s supporters, could already reveal the weakness of such claim,” she said.
She also scored Marcos for claiming he will present witnesses to dispute the signatures of some 8,000 voters in Basilan.
But upon checking, Robredo said these voters were not even registered in Basilan nor did they vote during the 2016 polls.
DID MARCOS MISLEAD PET?
Robredo also accused Marcos of misleading the PET by citing as his basis for the technical examination of ballots the case of losing ARMM gubernatorial candidate Abdusakur Tan against then-Gov. Mujiv Hataman, where a Comelec division allegedly ruled that the “2016 National, Local and ARMM Elections has been marked with different forms of election fraud such as massive substituted voting.”
She said the case involved only 200 out of 2,756 protested precincts and the protest itself had already been dismissed by the Comelec in December last year.
But should the PET proceed to Marcos’ third cause of action, Robredo asked the PET to require Marcos to present evidence of alleged electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities, which affected more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the 3 Mindanao provinces. This translates to more than 550,000 “affected” votes.
She also reiterated her counter-protest involving 7,547 clustered precincts in 13 provinces which should not be dismissed while the election protest is pending.
“Like the boy who cried wolf, protestant Marcos has lost all credibility to say that he was cheated out of the Vice-Presidency. The result of the revision, recount and re-appreciation of the ballots from his pilot provinces affirmed the victory of protestee (Robredo),” she said.
“It also confirmed what protestee has maintained from the very start – the allegations of massive electoral frauds, anomalies and irregularities are unsubstantiated,” she added.