The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has set aside a plea by Vice-President Maria Leonor "Leni" Santo Tomas Robredo asking for the scrubbing of the electoral protest filed by her defeated rival, former Senator Ferdinand Romualdez "Bongbong" Marcos.
The high court concurred with the PET ruling that the electoral protest of Marcos was valid, in effect denying the contention of Robredo that the protest was not sufficient in form and substance.
In an eight-page Resolution dated January 24, 2017, the PET had ruled that the sufficiency in form and substance of Marcos' election protest was beyond question: "With the issuance of the Summons, the Tribunal has found the Protest to be sufficient in form and substance. The Protest contained narrations of ultimate facts on the alleged irregularities and anomalies in the contested clustered precincts, which the protestant needs to prove in due time."
In their rejoinder, the verified answer and counter-protest filed by the camp of Robredo claimed that "the Tribunal has no jurisdiction over this case, considering that the Protest improperly questions the authenticity and due execution of the Certificates of Canvass (COC), which should have been raised as an issue in a pre-proclamation case filed before Congress acting as the National Board of Canvassers."
The Robredo answer further asserted that the Protest was "insufficient in form and substance because it failed to state, with detailed specify, the acts or omission complained of showing the electoral frauds, anomalies and irregularities in the protested precincts and the protestant's allegations and are not hinged on facts and laws."
It its ruling, the Supreme Court pointed out that, as provided for by the 1987 Constitution, PET is the tribunal that decides election protests involving the election of the President of the Philippines and Vice President of the Philippines.
The phrase "election, returns and qualifications" refers to all matters affecting the validity of the contestee's title, which includes questions on the validity, authenticity and correctness of the COCs," the Tribunal said.
On the matter of the sufficiency of the electoral protest, the Supreme Court said this was academic and deemed "beyond dispute" after Robredo was, by procedure, summoned by PET to submit her rejoinder.
The high court noted that, nevertheless, Marcos has not proven his allegations of electoral impropriety.
This ruling, therefore, enables the PET proceedings to open the chance for Marcos to assert and substantiate his protest, as well as close the door on the Robredo plea for a preliminary hearing on special and affirmative defenses.
Marcos lawyer Victor Rodriguez said in a statement: "We are hoping that, with this resolution, there will be an end to all these delays and we can finally move forward. There is a need to ferret out the truth as to what really transpired during the vice presidential race last May."