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Business Mirror : Bongbong tells PET: ‘The will of the electorate must be heard’

News & Interviews
12 May 2021

By JOEL R. SAN JUAN | Business Mirror

Vice presidential candidate and former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has pleaded to the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to continue looking into his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo, particularly the election results in three provinces in Mindanao.

Marcos made the plea in his 96-page motion for reconsideration of the PET’s decision issued last February, which dismissed his entire election protest.

The former senator, through his lawyer George Erwin Garcia, also asked the Court to form a special committee to conduct hearings, receive evidence and access the evidence for his third cause of action, which seeks to annul the election results in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan.

Furthermore, the Marcos camp is also asking the Court to direct the Commission on Elections (Comelec) handwriting experts to conduct the technical examination of the voters’ signatures appearing on the Election Day Computerized Voter’s List (EDCVL) as against the voters’ signatures appearing on the Voters Registration Records (VRRs) in the said three provinces.

“Because of protestant’s constitutional right to be heard, it is well-settled that between this constitutional right and the rigid and inflexible adherence by this Court to the wordings of the Rules of Court [on the non-existence of procedural rules], the conclusion should have been to give greater accord to the constitutional intent to give the parties all possible avenues to prove their case,” Marcos said.

It took the PET five years to finally resolve the election protest filed by Marcos in 2016.

In its ruling, the PET held that Marcos’s election protest appeared “bare, laden with generic and repetitious allegations, and lack information as to the time, place, and manner” of the alleged irregularities.

In his election protest case, Marcos identified three pilot provinces as Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Robredo’s home province, Camarines Sur.

However, PET said Marcos failed to make out his case after the revision and appreciation of votes in the 5,415 clustered precincts, which showed Marcos got 14,436,337, while the protestee Robredo received 14,157,771. This showed that Robredo even increased her lead over Marcos from 263,473 votes to 278,566 votes in these three provinces.

Despite this, PET granted the parties another opportunity to be heard on whether it should proceed with the case “in the interest of due process.”

In fact, the PET said, it could have dismissed the electoral protest under Rule 21 of their rules, but they decided to “painstakingly” hear every argument to afford due process to the parties.

Failing to prove his case through his designated pilot areas, PET said Marcos couldn’t insist on the annulment of the election results in the three provinces in Mindanao.

The PET said rules direct the immediate dismissal of the election protest without further consideration of the other provinces.

Nevertheless, the tribunal noted that for a full disposition of the election protest, it extensively scrutinized Marcos’s allegations and assessed evidence he presented to support his claims under the third cause of action.

But the Tribunal eventually decided not to give it due course due to loopholes in the affidavits of witnesses and absence of ad hoc rules.

In his appeal, Marcos insisted that the existence or non-existence of procedural rules, “should never be an obstacle in ascertaining who the voters chose to be their leaders.”

“What is important is that the true will of the electorate be heard,” Marcos said.

Marcos argued that the PET erred in not considering the annulment of election results as an independent distinct and separate cause of action, which can proceed on its own despite the dismissal of his second cause of action for judicial revision and recounting of ballots.

“As we all know, the power of PET is plenary, the Third Cause of Action, like annulment should not be taken lightly, even if there are no rules. We are talking about the second highest position in the country and the will of the electorate must be heard,” Marcos argued.

“Rules are just secondary since what is important is the will of the electorate,” he added.