By Benjamin Pulta | Daily Tribune
The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has ruled to keep the original copies of the documents for the duration of the recount in the election protest of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
The PET, in a resolution, turned down Marcos’ plea that he be allowed to keep the original copies of the election documents.
“...the custody of the official, printed and authenticated copies of the decrypted ballot images, election returns, and audit logs from the protested clustered precincts of the said pilot provinces should remain with the Tribunal for the conduct of the revision proceedings pursuant to the 2010 PET Rules,” it said.
But the PET allowed the former senator to secure soft copies and photocopies of the decrypted ballot images, election returns and audit logs from contested clustered precincts of the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, “subject to the payment of incidental costs.”
These are the three pilot provinces Marcos had picked where the initial ballot recount will be held beginning next month.
The Tribunal already ordered the start of the ballot boxes retrieval in Camarines Sur on January 23.
The PET issued the resolution last January 10, the same day Marcos accused Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the magistrate in charge of the protest, of bias in his handling of Marcos’ election protest.
“Senator Marcos had already made public last week the obvious bias of Justice Caguioa in his case and he said he would not be surprised if this kind of resolution would come out and he was correct. This is another clear confirmation that he is indeed biased against Senator Marcos and in favor of Mrs. Robredo,” Marcos’ spokesman, Victor Rodriguez, said.
While the PET is a collegial body composed of 15 justices of the SC, it is Caguioa, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III, who recommends to the tribunal the actions to be taken regarding Marcos’ protest and Robredo’s counter-protest.
Rodriguez said he could not understand why the PET would deprive Marcos of the documents that the tribunal required him to pay “only to give the same documents to Robredo for free.”
“It was Senator Marcos who moved for the decryption and Mrs. Robredo even opposed it. When the Tribunal granted it, it required Senator Marcos to pay for the cost of decryption which has now amounted to P7 million and still counting. But Justice Caguioa does not want to give us the documents we paid for, saying the same should stay with the Tribunal and if we want copies, we should pay again,” he lamented.
By comparison, the tribunal had granted as early as November 7 last year Robredo’s motion to secure the soft copies without ordering her to pay a single centavo. Marcos appealed the PET ruling but the Tribunal rejected it also on January 10.
“Indeed, Senator Marcos has not been given justice in his election protest,” Rodriguez noted.
Marcos lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential elections.