CNN Philippines - Comelec says PET can declare annulment of elections

3 November 2020

By CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 3) - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) can declare an annulment of elections but under certain conditions.

This was contained in the Comelec's letter to the tribunal in compliance with PET’s order to comment on pending issues surrounding the election protest of former Senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo.

However, the poll body said PET cannot conduct special elections.

Marcos wants to invalidate election results in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao due to alleged poll fraud and terrorism.

The Comelec stated that no special elections were held in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao in connection with the 2016 elections.

Citing the Abayon case, where the tribunal dismissed the electoral protest of former Rep. Harlin Abayon against Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza in the 2019 elections, the Comelec pointed out that “the strictest standards and procedures of law must be set in place if PET becomes strongly and positively convinced to annul the results of the elections.”

But the Comelec cautions PET: The power to nullify an election must be exercised with the greatest care with a view not to disenfranchise the voters; and only under circumstances that clearly call for such drastic remedial measure.

In the same case, the poll body said the Supreme Court, citing the dissenting opinion of Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, “unequivocally” listed the elements for the “drastic” action of nullifying the election.

Three elements must be satisfied to justify annulment of election results: evidence that more than 50% of votes were cast illegally; impossibility of differentiating the lawful and unlawful ballots; and clear, convincing, and strong evidence that the protestee is the one accountable for the acts.

The Comelec said it’s clear that under Rule 65 of PET, if upon examination of ballots in the pilot provinces, the protestant will most probably fail to make out his case, the protest may be dismissed.

However, the Comelec believes the Abayon case applies in Marcos’ poll protest, which means PET can proceed with his third cause of action, but all three above-mentioned elements must be met before election results are annulled.