Daily Tribune - Philconsa asks SC to expedite election protest cases

The Daily Tribune 

The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), should resolve election protest cases faster because anyone who has not been elected by people should have no place in government, the chair of Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) has said.

“I hope they (PET) will act more expeditiously for the simple reason that anyone who is not truly elected by the people to me is a bogus official, just a great pretender who has no right in the government. So the faster we do it, the better,” Philconsa chairman Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro said in an interview during his group’s monthly membership meeting at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City Thursday night.

He said that Philconsa and the Tanggulang Demokrasya Inc. are are now coming up with recommendations on how to expedite election protest cases to “weed out interlopers or pseudo-officials elected through the OMR (optical mark recognition machines).”

Lazaro, the guest of honor and speaker, is a noted expert in the nuances of a clean, honest election, how to remove fast interlopers or great pretenders in the government.

In addition, Glenn Chong, a former representative of the lone district of Biliran, pointed out that the courts, including the PET, have been unwitting tools in the cheating because it takes them a long time to resolve election protest cases.

“On the average, election contests covering the presidential elections take about three to four years to get resolved, and in all cases the protest is overtaken by the next elections where the protestant chooses to run for and assume another position whereby rendering the protest moot and academic.

For the vice presidency, the case filed by Sen. (Ferdinand “Bongbong”) Marcos has not gotten past the preliminary conference stage one year to the day after it was filed. We have not gone forward yet,” he said.

Chong also noted that since 2010, they have filed several cases against Comelec and Smartmatic but almost all the cases have not been acted upon.

He said the failure of the concerned government bodies to act on their complaints and petitions had emboldened cheaters in government and the “mafia” to continue with manipulating the elections so that by 2016, and they have perfected their cheating machinery through automation.

“The mafia in Comelec with Smartmatic always got away with their lies because our government agencies like the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice and even the Supreme Court have failed to act with dispatch on our complaints,” Chong said.

Lazaro said Chong’s presentation bolstered Philconsa’s resolve to push for amendments in the Automated Election System (AES) law to include among others punishing any act that interferes in the substantive and procedural due process requirements in violation of laws, rules and regulations as a non-bailable offense punishable by reclusion temporal or perpetua, depending on the magnitude of the offense committed the election process.

Lazaro further stated that Philconsa will push for a “hybrid” form of election replacing the current full automation system. “For one thing, I never believed in automated elections. I’ve always been for hybrid elections meaning manual voting, manual counting but automated transmission. We are preparing that and will support amending the present automation law,” he said.

He also remarked that in Germany, automated election was considered unconstitutional.

Also present during the Philconsa meeting were Evelyn Kilayko and Teresita Baltazar; Lito Averia, chair and president of Tanggulang Demokrasya (TanDem) and Information Technology experts Maricor Akol of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel); and Prof. Edmundo “Toti” Casiño, former President of the Philippine Computer Society.

They agreed that there was massive and systematic cheating in the last three automated elections, especially in the 2016 polls.

Last June 5, the camp of former Senator Marcos filed a motion before the Supreme Court sitting as the PET to order the decryption and printing of ballot images from the clustered precincts of the thirty contested provinces on his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

In a seven-page motion filed on June 1, Marcos through his counsel George Erwin Garcia moved to decrypt and print the ballot image from the Secure Digital (SD) cards and/or data storage devices from each of the 36,465 protested clustered precincts in the contested areas ahead of the scheduled preliminary conference on June 21 to hasten the process.

Garcia explained that the decryption and printing may be ordered by the Tribunal before the scheduled preliminary conference since the 2010 Rules of the PET allows any course of action that will expedite the proceedings.
“Rule 29(a) of the 2010 PET Rules enumerated the items to be considered during the preliminary conference, which includes among others, such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the election protest,” Garcia noted.

He added that such procedure will also “assist in the preparation for the recount proceedings and the presentation of evidence for the protest.”

The contested areas subject of the proposed decryption and printing of ballot images included the provinces of Cebu, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Masbate, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte, Bukidnon, Iloilo Province, Bohol, Quezon, Batangas, Western Samar, Misamis Oriental, Camarines Sur, Palawan, Albay, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Occidental, Pangasinan and Isabela; Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City and Zamboanga City and the 2nd District of Northern Samar.

Garcia said the decryption and printing of the ballot images will be conducted and supervised by the Election Records and Statistics Departments (ERSD) of the Comelec.

He was however quick to note the motion is without prejudice to the conduct of the Judicial Recount/Revision, Technical Examination and Forensic Investigation of the paper ballots and/or the ballot images, voter’s receipts, election returns, audit logs, transmission logs, the lists of voters, particularly the Election Day Computerized Voter’s List (EDCVL), and voters registration records (VRRs), and other paraphernalia used in the May 2016 elections.

It will be recalled that Marcos filed an election protest against Robredo in June 2016, contesting 39,221 clustered precincts which are composed of 132,446 established precincts. Robredo, meanwhile, filed a counter-protest, questioning 8,042 clustered precincts which are composed of 31,278 established precincts.

Marcos has assailed Robredo’s plea and asked the PET to dismiss her counter-protest since she failed to settle the first installment as directed by the Tribunal

In arguing for the dismissal of the counter-protest, Marcos cited Rule 34 of the 2010 PET Rules which states “if a party fails to make cash deposits or additional deposits herein required within the prescribed time limit, the Tribunal may dismiss the protest or counter-protest, or take such action as it may deem equitable under the circumstances. The SC, however, did not dismiss Robredo’s failure to cough up the required cash deposit on time.

Robredo won the 2016 vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes.