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Manila Standard : Getting serious with election protests

News & Interviews
6 January 2022

By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard

“It’s about time we looked into these more closely.”

If the current trend continues, it’s highly likely former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. or BBM to his supporters will emerge victorious in the May 9 presidential race. And maybe, since he is a victim of an election protest which became moot for being overtaken by events, he can seriously look into the conduct of election protest hearings and seek to amend laws governing election protests.

For the record, BBM’s case is not the first to be withdrawn (Actually, it still has to be withdrawn), after the protester has decided to run for another post with his protest still pending before the Presidential electoral Tribunal.

In 1992, the late Miriam Defensor Santiago lodged a protest against former President Fidel Ramos, claiming her votes were shaved through a scheme “Dagdag-Bawas.” She however, was forced to withdraw her case after she ran for a Senate seat in 1995, without the case being resolved.

In 2004, then Senator, now Rep. Loren Legarda also protested the results of the vice-presidential elections where she lost to Noli de Castro. She however was forced to abandon her protest when she sought a Senate seat in 2007.

Senator Francis Tolentino also filed a protest in the 2016 elections alleging his votes were shaved in favor of another candidate. Like Santiago and Legarda, he also withdrew his protest when he ran for a Senate seat again in 2019.

With four months to go before the next election’ BBM’s case is surely to follow the routes of the election protest cases of Santiago, Legarda and Tolentino. The case will never be decided and the results of the protest will never be known to the public.

And that has to change. As Kilusang Bagong Lipunan senatorial candidate, lawyer Larry Gadon avers, the two Supreme Court justices – Alfredo Caguioa and Marvic Leonen should be held accountable for messing up, or delaying the resolution of BBM’s poll protests.

Election protests, especially those seeking a recount, don’t come cheap. In fact, Gadon says BBM paid more or less P200 million for his protests against Leni Robredo.

And for that, Gadon says they should be held accountable for the refund of the protest fees deposited by Bongbong Marcos in connection with his 2016 electoral protest due to inordinate delays.

“The filing for the upcoming 2022 elections has gone past last Oct 8 and we are now in the year 2022, still the 2016 VP protest remains unresolved,” Gadon noted.

“Justices Caguioa and Marivic Leonen must be held personally liable for the refund since the long delays can be attributed to the two of them,” the senatorial candidate stressed.

According to Gadon, the snail-paced proceedings during the time that Caguioa was the ponente has dragged the protest for several years on a simple issue of whether the 25 percent shading should be considered as valid vote or not despite the Commission on Elections telling the voting public to fully shade the vote. This actually was stressed in the Comelec-paid advertisements aired during the 2016 campaign period.

At the time that the protest was re-raffled to Leonen, Gadon said the issue was whether the SC can invalidate the votes from parts of Mindanao proven to be marred with fraud.

Leonen however refused to rule on the matter allegedly due to the absence of rules covering the matter, despite the comments of the Comelec and the Solicitor General that the SC has all the power and authority to rule on the issue in the exercise of its judicial powers by creating the needed rules,

“AJ Leonen still failed and refused to issue the final verdict that would have resulted in the invalidation of Leni votes and make Bongbong Marcos the winner in the 2016 VP race,” said Gadon.

“AJs Caguioa and Leonen must refund the money deposited by BBM. They have committed grave injustice to BBM and the electorate for frustrating the will of the people,” the lawyer added

However, I don’t think a refund would be enough. As the saying “Justice delayed is justice denied,” failing act on BBM’s protest which has dragged for almost six years now, could have deprived the people of the rightful vice president, assuming BBM really had won the 2016 vice presidential elections, but which we will never know because those two justices failed to resolve the case. It was not only BBM who was denied justice but also the people who voted for him and who believed he had won. They were denied justice not only because the resolution of the case was delayed but because it was never resolved at all.

The laws governing election protest should really be revisited and amended and those handling the cases should be made to refund the fees paid for by the protesters and be slapped with stiffer penalties for failing to resolve the cases for a specific period of time to be determined by Congress.

It’s about time we got serious with these election protests which these hearing officers seem to take for granted.

* * *

Speaking of Gadon, just hours after issuing a statement calling for Caguioa and Leonen to be held responsible for refunding BBM’s protest fees, the SC slapped him with a suspension and asked him to explain why he should not be disbarred for his “verbal abuse of Raisa Robles.”

Gadon quickly reacted on the manner by which his suspension was channeled through the media instead of being served to him first

“For an institution that prides itself for safeguarding due process of laws, I am confused that the Supreme Court immediately suspended me without due process and my suspension was announced in the media without furnishing me first with a copy of the complaint, if there is any. Since this appears unprecedented in History, I cannot help but feel that I am being singled out. Could this be due to my recent statement calling for a refund of the protest fees paid by BBM that remained unresolved?” Gadon said through a statement.

“Could this be politically motivated since I am running for senator?” he added.