Business Mirror - ‘Ruling on Marcos protest will be merit-based’

11 October 2019

By Joel R. San Juan | Business Mirror

THE much-awaited ruling by the Supreme Court—sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal—on the election protest filed by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will be based on merit, and not on personal biases of the magistrates or pressure from the public.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin gave this assurance at the sidelines of the launching of the Judiciary Memorabilia Hall where he confirmed that a decision on the case is forthcoming.

Bersamin also assured that he would not be using his position as chief magistrate to influence the outcome of the case.

“This is something I can tell you, we are expected to have a result by next week; it may not be what you expect. We are still discussing many other things so that is all I can tell you. Don’t worry ’di ko niluluto, ’di pwede lutuin ‘yan, [Don’t worry I am not rigging it, It cannot be rigged],” Bersamin stressed.

Bersamin, however, refused to confirm that a ruling is coming out next week when the Court holds its regular en banc session.

“We cannot tell. There may be a decision, there may not be a decision. But the reality is, we are still considering whether there are already enough before us,” he said.

The Court has already deferred twice its deliberations and voting on the report submitted by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao on the result of the revision and recount of ballots in three pilot provinces covered by the election protest.

Caguiao is the justice assigned to handle the election protest.

Caguiao’s report covers the result of the revision and recount of ballots in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur involving 5,415 precincts.

The outcome of the revision and recount of ballots in the test provinces would determine whether PET would proceed in the vote revision on 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities identified in Marcos election protest.

“I am bound by confidentiality. I cannot bring you into the banc otherwise we would make our deliberations public. We have certain rules to follow on nondisclosure and I am very careful not to infringe those rules because I am the leader of the Court and would not be loquacious or talkative about what they are doing there at the Tribunal,” Bersamin said in explaining why he could give further details.

The Chief Justice said they are aware about some groups gathering outside the premises of the Court to call for the immediate release of its ruling on Marcos case.

However, Bersamin said he and his fellow magistrates do not feel any pressure in deciding in favor of a certain party.

“We do not feel the pressure. We know there is pressure there but we are very mature members of the Supreme Court so if anyone of us feels pressured we would just help the pressured member. I tell you, all of us are pressured to some degree but the pressure we experience is bearable because if not, we should all just resign,” he added.

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

The Commission on Elections declared Robredo winner in the vice presidential race in the 2016 election after she got 14,418,817 votes—or 263,473 votes more than the 14,155,344 votes received by Marcos.