By Ninez Cacho-Olivares | Daily Tribune
There should be reforms made in the manner the electoral protests are being handled by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as well as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Not only does it take too many years for both the PET and the Comelec to finish a protest lodged by the losing candidate, but they have also made it far too expensive for any candidate to lodge a protest against his rival.
In the case of some congressmen who lodge a protest against their rivals and won their protest, they go to Congress only to find out that it is the last day of Congress, and there is nothing left for these candidates but to run again for the same seats.
Take the case of losing vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, who had to fork out some P66 million in poll protest fees required by the Supreme Court in full.
The payment will cover the cost of the recount and retrieval of ballots for his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Why should candidates who protest be required to pay tens of millions to know whether he was cheated or not?
Surely, the Filipino electorate deserve to know whether the candidate they voted for was elected freely and did not cheat through manipulated voting machines.
Why should the Filipino electorate’s vote be thwarted?
In the case of Marcos, it has taken a little over a year to get the protest started.
In the past, what the Supreme Court acting as the PET, didn’t even bother to move despite required fees having been paid.
The PET style then was to merely wait for time to pass, and wait for the losing presidential or vice presidential candidate join in another election — usually a senatorial election, after which, the PET merely says that the protestant has abandoned her protest when she filed her certificate of candidacy for a Senate seat.
This was the case in the protests lodged by then presidential candidate, the late Miriam Santiago, and vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda, who also ran for a seat in the Senate after losing the race.
In the case of losing vice presidential bet Mar Roxas, it took the PET all of six years to rule on the electoral protest, only to state that the protest was already moot. But of course, since the term of the vice president is six years — the same time the PET took to decide the case. However, it must be asked, why does the PET, deliberately it seems, really slow down the poll protest in too many instances?
It is as if the PET does not want to rock the boat, so to speak, even if the person who sits in that elected seat is not the true choice of the voters?
Which is more important: To continue having one who cheated to win sit in that elective seat or shouldn’t the true winner rightfully take his honestly earned seat?
But there are also some delaying tactics being played by the candidate who officially won the polls, as that winner fears to be dislodged from that seat, and so, more delays are resorted to by the opposing side.
Marcos earlier filed a protest questioning the integrity and reliability of the Vote Counting Machines, Consolidating Canvass System units, secure digital cards and other storage devices using during the May 2016 elections. He also requested for the preliminary conference to let his protest proceed.
Vice President Leni Robredo’s legal camp seized on this, either objecting to this or saying there will be more delays coming.
Robredo was ordered to pay a fee of P15 million for the 31,278 precincts included in her counter-protest against Marcos.
Marcos and Robredo are facing each other today before the High Court.
The former senator will be represented by lawyer Estelito Mendoza during the pre-trial which will allow both parties narrow down the conflict for a speedier disposition of the case.
Marcos apparently can afford to shell out P66 million for his electoral protest fees. But what about the other losing candidates who also believe they won but were cheated out of the vote but can’t afford the steep fees required not just by the PET but also the Comelec?
For these losing candidates, they prefer not to lodge any protest. Instead, they wait for another election year and run again.
And it is the Filipino voters who again and again are being cheated out of their votes.