Business Mirror - Expect a ‘voluminous’ progress report on Marcos poll protest vs Robredo–CJ

5 September 2019

By Business Mirror

CHIEF Justice Lucas Bersamin on Wednesday said the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), is expecting a “voluminous report” from Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa on the result of the preliminary revision of ballots in three pilot provinces covering the election protest filed by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo.

During Wednesday’s meet with the press, Bersamin said that Caguioa, who is handling Marcos’s election protest, is likely to submit his report before he steps down as head of the judiciary on October 18.

The preliminary revision covers three pilot provinces composed of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

After the PET finishes its recount in the pilot provinces, it will decide whether to proceed in the vote revision on 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities identified in Marcos election protest.

“His submission is a prelude to the action of the Court on whether to proceed to the other aspects of the case,” the Chief Justice said.

Marcos’s protest cites three causes of action—first, that the automated elections system was compromised, hence, the integrity of the AES cannot be relied upon to declare a legitimate winner; the second requires the revision, or manual recount, of the actual ballots to determine the votes cast in all the 36,465 protested clustered precincts, while the third cause of action sought the annulment of election results for the VP position in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan, on the ground of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters, as well as pre-shading of ballots in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts in the areas.

The PET has dismissed Marcos’s first cause of action for being “meaningless and pointless.”

The Court held that even if Marcos succeeds in proving his first cause of action, it does not mean that he can claim victory for the VP post because it can only be determined by a manual recount of all votes in all precincts.

Thus, the Court said “allowing the first cause of action to continue would be an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect.”

The PET held that the first cause of action may be dispensed with for “judicial economy” and for the speedy resolution of the case.

“Very soon, we are expecting that the ponente, who is Justice Caguioa, will come up with his report and he has informed us that his report will be voluminous report and that is expected because when you have revised ballots coming from at least three provinces that were part of a protest, you would expect details of whether this ballot are to be part of the counting, or not to be part of counting,” Bersamin said.

The chief magistrate also admitted that the PET is taking a long time to resolve the election protest but appealed for understanding from the public.

He said the tribunal has to be very “careful” in handling the case as it involves the stability of the government.

“I know the impatience of the public about this case of the VP being protested but we should also be careful of what we do here because the credibility of our processes, as well as the political system here is at stake so we are doing it gradually but with sufficient speed,” Bersamin added.

He also told reporters that he would not divulge the progress on the third cause of action as he is not authorized to make public any result on the said aspect.

Marcos filed an election protest on June 29, 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May also the same year.

Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also filed counterprotest and questioned the results in over 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.

However, the PET refused to dismiss the election protest on the ground of sufficiency in form and substance.