Daily Tribune - And the winner is… abandoned

News & Interviews
24 January 2019

By Ninez Cacho-Olivares | Daily Tribune

Midterm polls are coming up, yet after close to three years, the Supreme Court (SC), acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), still has to resolve the issue of the real winner of the vice presidency: Leni Robredo, who was proclaimed the winner, or Bongbong Marcos, her rival who had lodged a protest against her, alleging electoral fraud.

At this time, the PET said the revision of ballots in the protest case lodged by Marcos has been completed — although not quite really, since the PET merely completed the revision of ballots of some 5,500 clustered precincts for the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental — provinces that Marcos had earlier asked to be checked out for electoral fraud.

Also, on the matter of the waterlogged ballot boxes and their contents, these would still undergo a revision, although the PET would be using the decrypted ballot images provided by the Commission on Elections to read the damaged ballots.

However, this doesn’t mean that the protest lodged by Marcos against Robredo will finally be concluded with the electorate being told just who the real winner is.

Whichever way the PET goes, there will definitely be a counter-protest through a revised count in the other provinces Robredo is also seeking for alleged vote fraud.

The ball is again in the PET’s court, since the next stage in the electoral protest case would be the appreciation of ballots where the PET is expected to rule on all objections and claims made by the parties during the revision.

This can take almost forever — or at least perhaps a day before the vice-presidential term expires, or if the protestant decides to abandon his protest, which Marcos is not expected to do, as he had decided not to run for a senatorial seat in the midterm polls which would have written finis to his protest.

The electoral protest of Marcos now moves on to the second phase, which comes after the revision and appreciation of the ballots. Then the tribunal is expected to determine if the Marcos protest had valid grounds to challenge the victory of Robredo.

The PET then decides whether to dismiss the case or proceed with the vote recount in other contested provinces.

Such a move would definitely take more months, perhaps even a full year or two before the Marcos protest — or any other presidential and vice presidential protest in the future — can even be resolved, especially since there is always a counter-protest lodged by the protestee, mostly done to ensure that the protestee is not dislodged from his or her already occupied seat gained through fraudulent votes, especially when another presidential or even senatorial poll comes around.

There are times that the SC-PET has been suspected of deliberately delaying the recount or revision of the ballots, merely waiting for the next senatorial polls, hoping that like all other political bets for the high office, they register as senatorial candidates, knowing that they have better chances of winning a Senate seat than the electoral protest lodged by them.

This suspicion was most noted during the protest lodged by then losing vice-presidential bet Mar Roxas against the then Vice President Jojo Binay, who had also lodged a counter-protest.

It took the SC-PET six long years or the full term of a seated vice president to resolve the protest from Roxas. The PET again waited for the protestant to run for office again to enable the PET to claim abandonment of the part of the protestant.

It is highly likely given the PET’s length of time to resolve cases —motions and counter-motions — that Marcos will meet the same fate other presidential and vice-presidential protestants have suffered, especially since another presidential election is scheduled in 2022, where Marcos is expected to take another shot, this time as a presidential candidate.

The SC, acting as the PET, had used many times in the past a presidential or vice-presidential protestant’s move to run for elective office, while the protest is still active, as a case of abandonment of the protest, which many find too unfair an excuse or justification for the SC-PET to put a stop to the count, simply because, as many suspect, the SC does not want to rock the electoral boat.

It is highly unfair not only because a lot of money had been invested by the protestants to get at the electoral truth, but more importantly, it is highly unfair to the electorate as the voters may have been cheated out of their vote and thus their electoral will again be thwarted. Worse, we may have a cheat that would have sat in an elected office, while the real winner — the real choice of the electorate — would have been robbed of his true seat.

Meanwhile, with the SC-PET taking too long a time to declare the real winner in vice-presidential and presidential polls, the tens of millions invested by the protestant are all for naught — for him, but not for the SC that has the “abandoned” millions of the protestant.

Is there ever justice done in this political and electoral part of the world?