Special election needed if PET nullifies votes in 3 Mindanao provinces: ex-CJ Panganiban

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 17 2019 09:58 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2019 10:11 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, must call for a special election if it grants former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr's motion to annul votes for the 2016 vice-presidential election in 3 Mindanao provinces, a former chief justice said Thursday. 

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, ex-chief justice Artemio Panganiban said the Marcos camp's omnibus motion for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to "investigate alleged substituted-voting in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan" is unprecedented.

"There are many problems there that is why it is prudential to say 'Just a minute, let's have comments first.' This time, important ang comment ni [Vice-President] Leni [Robredo]," Panganiban said.

"Why is it difficult to go into that? Firstly, there has been no precedent and the rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal do not cover them."

The ex-chief justice said PET rules cover only quo warranto and election protests, not failure of election.

"There is no part in the rule that says the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, does it have the power to declare void an election," he said.

"In legal parlance that is what Marcos is doing, to declare a failure of election. The election fails because the voters were coerced, there was massive province-wide fraud," he said.

He said failure of election is a power given by the Election Code to the Commission on Elections.

In the absence of rules, the PET can say that it is within its jurisdiction to act on Marcos' 3rd cause of action, he said. 

"Yes. It's within our jurisdiction and they will say since there are no rules, we will make rules but that will take time. Even if these 3 provinces are excluded due allegedly to terrorism etc that's not the end of the ball game either. There should be a new election because the electorate in those 3 provinces must be heard," he said. 

"The proof will take time. There are witnesses you have to present. Let us assume he is able to prove that. The question is you annul the election, what is the solution? Proclaim him winner? Not yet, new election. That's what provided in the election code."

"If there is a failure of election, call for a new election."

Ex-Commission on Elections commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal earlier warned nullification of votes in entire provinces has never been done before, adding that doing so would have consequences.

"Wholesale annulment of votes is very scary. Once you go down that path it opens the door for so many potential problems in electoral exercises in the Philippines," he said.

If allowed, he said politicians would simply file for an election protest seeking to nullify votes instead of a vote recount.

"What will happen is a particular individual will simply file a protest. Wala nang revision of ballots, nullification na lang of votes. And that’s wrong because if you wanna do that, you have to file a petition for failure of elections."

Robredo's lawyer Romulo Macalintal earlier said Marcos' claim of electoral fraud in the 3 Mindanao provinces is misleading because Comelec Voters Identification Division only examined 200 out of 2,834 clustered precincts in ARMM. 

Technical examination by Comelec is different from that of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, he added.

Meanwhile, Marcos spokesman Atty. Vic Rodriguez said the high court could tackle both causes of action at the same time as he claimed the Supreme Court earlier ruled the two were "separate and distinct."

"Ang aming hinihingi maari po bang sabayang pagdinig na ng first at ng aming second cause of action," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also denied claims that their camp has been changing tactics to delay the proceedings, saying they filed 3 causes of action from the start.

"Ang pinaguusapan lamang ay 6 na taong termino. Any delay will be prejudicial to the true and lawful winner for the Vice President," he said.