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Manila Standard : The quest for the truth

News & Interviews
13 May 2021

By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard

"Marcos tries again."

The other day, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. formally filed his appeal on the ruling of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, dismissing his election protest against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo. He asked the High Court to reconsider its decision saying his electoral protest must be concluded until the end.

Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, spokesman for Marcos, claims the PET had erred and erred gravely it did when it sacrificed Marcos’ constitutional right to due process in exchange for expediency.

This, in essence, is the heart of former Senator Marcos’ 95-page Motion for Reconsideration they had filed asking to reverse the SC decision junking their protest in its entirety, the third cause of action included.

The PET voted on the ruling penned by Associate Justice Marivic Leonen on 16 February 2021 but released their Decision more than a month later–on 19 April 2021.

“It will be recalled that on 15 October 2019 the PET, voting 11-2, required Marcos and Robredo to submit their respective Memoranda on why Marcos’ third Cause of Action should be heard. After the parties submitted their briefs, the PET sought the opinion of both the Office of the Solicitor General and the Commission on Elections on whether it could hear evidence on the massive cheating that occurred in the provinces of Maguindanao, Basilan, and Lanao del Sur. Both agencies replied in the affirmative,” Rodriguez narrated.

However, despite the pronouncements of both the OSG and the Comelec, Rodriguez laments the PET decided to dismiss Marcos’ protest citing the absence of specific rules regarding annulment of elections – which was Marcos’ third Cause of Action, which even then presiding Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta disagrees with.

Peralta emphasized that “the absence of a specific rule should not dissuade the tribunal from taking cognizance and giving due course to contests praying for the annulment of election results.”

His opinion was equally shared by Justice Samuel Gaerlan who stated that “this Court has consistently recognized the existence of annulment of elections as a remedy available to a losing candidate if it be alleged that an election is tainted with irregularities and frauds so numerous and so undeniably characteristic of an intention to defraud and defeat the true expression of the will of the electorate.”

Right on point. And to that, Rodriguez avers that the issue should not be taken lightly. “What is at stake here is the second highest position in the country,” he says.

To dismiss such an important election protest because of “the absence of procedural rules” is an affront to our Constitutional right of due process, says Rodriguez.

“Technicalities should not be a bar to the determination of the people’s will. This is what democracy is all about: upholding the sovereignty of the people. The best way to remove any doubt regarding the legitimacy of any candidate is for the case to proceed,” he stresses.

I’d like to add my thoughts to this.

The Marcos election protest should not be treated as simply an act for someone to remove another one from office on the basis of an irregularity in claiming that particular post. The protest case is not personal to Marcos but also involves the 14 million Filipinos whose votes were counted for him and the undetermined numbers whose votes are alleged to be missing. It even involves Robredo herself and those who voted for her in case they really want that peace of mind and be convinced no one cheated for her.

The case involves all Filipinos who want to unravel the truth. What really happened during the four hours we slept, from 12 midnight to four in the morning when Marcos’ almost one million lead vanished and Robredo overtook him. We want to know the truth which some groups have obviously been trying to hide from us when the ballots scheduled to be submitted for manual recount were discovered to be soaked in water even as they were supposedly stored in a secured place.

Even Rodriguez admits they owe it to the more than 14 million Filipinos who voted for Marcos and more so to the millions more whose votes went missing or were not duly counted to pursue this fight to the very end, as this has become not only their fight but that of the other people as well.

Even after 2022, when Robredo steps down assuming her assumption of the post of the vice president is not invalidated for whatever reason, her election to office would forever be in question. The period 2016 to 2022 will be forever known as the period when the country didn’t actually recognize an elected vice president. Thus, the matter should be settled clearly to satisfy all interests.

For as Rodriguez declares, “when all is said and done, the true will of the electorate should be heard.”

And this, according to him, is what they are fighting for.

And so will we.