'Well-written' ruling junking Marcos poll protest out when justices explain vote— Chief Justice

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2021 05:58 PM

'Well-written' ruling junking Marcos poll protest out when justices explain vote— Chief Justice 1
Former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

SAN VICENTE, Tarlac — Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Friday said the Presidential Electoral Tribunal's (PET) ruling junking defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.'s election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo will be released once magistrates who concurred only in the result finally submit their explanation for their votes. 

Peralta said the tribunal is waiting for justices to explain their votes, particularly those who concurred only in the results, saying this is required under the rules.

SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka announced Tuesday that 7 magistrates fully concurred in the dismissal while 8 others concurred in the result. This means the 8 magistrates may have different reasons but agreed that the protest should be dismissed.

Asked when the full decision could be released, Peralta said "usually it will not take more than 1 week."

"But it is a long, long and well-written decision by our colleague and you know who's the ponente," he said, referring to Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who sources confirmed penned the decision.

Peralta, however, declined the discuss the reasons cited in the main decision for junking the election protest.

"That I cannot divulge, the deliberation is confidential, but I can only say that as usual there was deliberation, there were debates, there were several things raised but eventually as what the Chief Justice usually does, is to call for a vote, and that's what we did," he said on the sidelines of an event in Tarlac.

MARCOS MAY FILE APPEAL

Peralta also confirmed that Marcos may still appeal the PET's decision.

"Of course, of course, he can always do that, that's one of his remedies," he said.

Under Rule 79 of the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, a motion for reconsideration may be filed within 10 days from receipt of a PET decision.

The tribunal on Tuesday unanimously junked Marcos’ election protest citing the absence of specific allegations of electoral fraud and the failure to show substantial recovery in the 3 pilot provinces he chose for the initial recount: Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

The result of the initial recount, released in October 2019, showed that Robredo’s slim lead of 263,000 votes when she was proclaimed in June 2016 grew by 15,000 votes.

Rule 65 of PET Rules allows the dismissal of an election protest if a protestant “will most probably fail to make out his case” after examining the ballots and taking all circumstances into account in the 3 pilot provinces.

Marcos had vowed to appeal the ruling even as his spokesperson, lawyer Vic Rodriguez, previously said they would still seek clarification if it’s the entire election protest that has been dismissed or just the second cause of action on the manual recount, insisting their third cause of action on the annulment of elections in the 3 Mindanao provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao is separate and distinct.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, quickly clarified Tuesday it dismissed the entire election protest but this did not stop Rodriguez from telling ANC Wednesday they want to know if the term “election protest” was used strictly to refer to only the manual recount or if it was used “loosely.”

PERALTA: ALL ISSUES TACKLED

Peralta on Friday said the PET ruling considered all of Marcos’ causes of action, including the annulment of elections in Mindanao.

“All the issues were tackled, you are referring to the 3rd [cause of action] that was tackled in the decision,” he told reporters.

Robredo’s lawyer, Emil Emil Marañon III, chided Rodriguez for claiming their cause of action for the annulment of elections in 3 Mindanao provinces is still alive.

“All that Atty. Vic Rodriguez needs to do is to read the 2010 PET Rules to realize that his arguments are downright foolish. Under the PET Rules, there are only two types of election contests: an election protest (Rule 15) and a quo warranto (Rule 16). There is no independent action for annulment of election results under the PET rules. There being none, a prayer for annulment is usually tucked as part of an election protest, as what Bongbong Marcos' election lawyers have done in his case,” he said.

“’Di ba, if they now claim na-separate yun, why did they not file a separate case for annulment? Why include it as part of Marcos' election protest? Even the case of Abayon vs. HRET cited by him to support his claim for annulment was also filed as an election protest. Thus, the dismissal of Bongbong Marcos' election protest includes the dismissal of all incidents relating to his case, including his cause of action for annulment,” he added.

Peralta, on Friday, acknowledged that the Abayon case was cited in the main decision.

“One of the issues that was discussed is the decision I wrote when I was a member of the HRET, my dissenting opinion in Abayon vs Daza, which went to the Supreme Court, whether or not failure of election could be part of protest that's why I’m writing also my… in the result, because my name was mentioned that I was the one who wrote the dissenting opinion when I was a member of the HRET where I lost to the majority, but when the issue reached the Supreme Court, my dissenting opinion was sustained and that’s one of the reasons probably why justice... the ponente, wrote the conclusion, one of the basis of the conclusion was that case. That’s why i want to write also because my decision was mentioned in the main decision,” he explained.

The Abayon case involved an election protest filed by defeated congressional candidate Raul Daza against Harlin Abayon, who was proclaimed the winner. 

The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal ruled in favor of Daza and annulled the election results in 5 clustered precincts in Northern Samar due to alleged terrorism but on appeal, the Supreme Court sided with Abayon.

SC ruled that while the HRET had the power to annul the election results as an incident to its judicial function, its decision in favor of Daza “was clearly unsupported by clear and convincing evidence,” citing the dissenting opinion of Peralta which characterized his evidence as “weak, unclear and unconvincing.”

Peralta said the illegality of the ballots must affect more than 50 percent of the votes cast in a precinct sought to be annulled or, in the case of the entire municipality, more than 50 percent of its total precincts and votes cast. 

He added, it must also be impossible to distinguish with reasonable certainty between the lawful and unlawful ballots.

POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS 

Peralta also refused to comment on the effect of Marcos’ decision to run for a national position in the 2022 polls, as confirmed by Marcos' spokesperson.

“That's another question. That’s not tackled in our deliberations. That's his choice, if he wants to run then that's his choice but as to whether or not that will abandon his protest, that's another thing,” he said.

Previous election protests before the PET were dismissed for being moot when the protestants decided to run in the next elections. This includes the cases of former senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Loren Legarda and Mar Roxas.