MANILA – A Malacañang official on Friday said the electoral protest of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo should not affect President Rodrigo Duterte's victory in the May 2016 presidential race.
Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said this in light of the opinion that the former senator’s electoral protest could put into question the integrity of the entire electoral process last year.
“I don’t think the Palace is affected at all about that and, of course, the President, especially the President, won by a big margin,” Banaag told reporters in a chance interview in Malacañang.
The long-time Davao City Mayor, while a latecomer in the presidential race, won with over 16.5 million votes, leading second placer Manuel 'Mar' Roxas of the Liberal Party (LP) by over 6 million votes.
“The President’s mandate is not affected with whatever protests the former senator has in the [Supreme Court],” she added.
Marcos, only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, filed a protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal after he lost to Robredo by a mere 263,473 votes, making last year's vice presidential race the closest in recent memory.
The former senator listed three “causes of action” in his protest, the first of which delves on the legitimacy and integrity of the automated electoral system (AES).
Robredo, represented by veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, said the court must first resolve Marcos’ first cause of action.
He, however, said this task could take time to resolve and also put the entire electoral process into question.
Macalintal said if Marcos is questioning the victory of his rival, he would also inadvertently raise questions on the victory of Duterte and other candidates down to the local level.
During the July 11 preliminary conference of the PET, Macalintal's concern was shared by several Supreme Court justices who make up the tribunal, according to a newspaper report.
Apart from questioning the integrity of the AES, Marcos’ camp also accused Robredo of committing “traditional” modes of cheating such as the pre-shading of ballots and vote-buying.
In line with this, the former senator’s camp is asking the PET to order the voiding of poll results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao and a recount of votes in several areas.
His camp also accused Robredo of electronic cheating, after automated election system provider Smartmatic introduced a hash code into the Commission on Elections transparency server that allegedly altered the results of the polls.
The poll body had said that Smartmatic indeed introduced a new hash code, but only to correct a character in the names of candidates with "ñ" in them.