The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo changed tack yesterday or a day after her rival former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos paid a P36 million installment to pursue a vote recount in his electoral protest claiming six years may not be enough to recount all the election results Marcos is questioning due to the huge number of clustered precincts he wanted to reopen.
Romulo Macalintal, lawyer of Vice President Robredo, said the Supreme Court, sitting as thePresidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) may take years to finish the recount of all election results disputed by Marcos.
In the contested tally of the May 10 polls, Robredo won with 14 682,290 votes against 14,418, 817 votes received by Marcos or a slim 263,473 margin, which was the narrowest in the history of the country’s vice presidential elections.
Macalintal cited that a recount on a single municipality even takes a year or two. “We’re talking about 18 provinces and five highly-urbanized cities, or an estimated 700 municipalities and 11 cities,” Macalintal said.
Marcos filed the protest against Robredo in June 2016, questioning at least 39,221 clustered precincts that is composed of 132,446 small precincts.
In response, Robredo filed a counter-protest contesting 8,042 clustered precincts composed of 31,278 polling centers.
The PET directed Robredo to shell out P15.44 million and Marcos, P66.02 million for their separate election cases to proceed. The PET required Robredo’s camp to pay P8 million for the first instalment and another P7.4 million for the second instalment by July 14. Robredo’s camp has not paid the required first instalment.
Macalintal said Robredo’s lawyers have asked the PET to determine if Marcos’s protest has basis before making the payment.
Seeking another clarification, Robredo through her lawyers submitted a manifestation arguing that Marcos should pay P185 million instead of P66 million.
Macalintal explained that his protest has a first cause of action which included all 92,000 clustered precincts, which was a move tagged as “delaying tactic” by the Marcos camp.
Macalintal denies delay tactic
Macalintal denied that the Vice President is delaying the protest, pointing out to the “defects” in Marcos’ complaint.
“The problem with Mr. Marcos’ protest is that he presented a very weak protest. There were so many defects in the protest. Of course as lawyers, we had to point out these defects. Otherwise we will be cited in saying all these defects in the protest if we neglect in bringing it up in the first stage of the case,” he said.
He reiterated that the problem lies with the other party who questioned all clustered precincts.
“How could you say we are delaying? If you say that we are delaying, you are actually accusing the PET of not knowing what to do, that it is as if we have the capability to delay it,” he added.
“That is an insult against the competence and the integrity of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. Because if the Presidential Electoral Tribunal sees that we are delaying it then we could be cited in contempt of court,” he added.
Macalintal, a veteran election lawyer, said aside from the deposits, the two parties needed to send 50 revisors for the recount which would cost at least P1,500 a day or an estimated total of P75,000 for 50 revision committees a day.
“(Marcos) protested about 39,000 precincts and you know they can only open one ballot box a day. If there are only 50 revision committees and 39,000 ballot boxes divided by 50, it would take us 750 days,” he added.
Meanwhile, the lawyer repeated that his client would only pay the required amount after the conclusion of Marcos’ protest.
“We are willing to pay. We know the rules. We will only pay after Mr. Marcos has already finished the revision and the recount of the ballot,” he said.
Macalintal said that based on rules, an electoral protest should have “detailed specifications of the actual omissions committed.”
He said Robredo’s camp is asking specific answers to specific questions like, “Who did it? Where was it done? Where it happened? How it happened?”
Earlier, Marcos lead counsel Vic Rodriguez belied Macalintal’s claim. Rodriguez said the main protest document has 1,000 pages and its attachment has at least 2,000 pages.
He complained that it has been 10 months since they filed the protest and the PET has yet to start the preliminary conference.