Manila Standard Today - Leni fails to block Bongbong’s protest

15 February 2017

By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard Today

THE Supreme Court, acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has denied the plea of Vice President Leni Robredo to dismiss the electoral protest filed against her by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. after it found the poll protest “sufficient in form and substance.”

This means the PET will proceed with the hearing and resolution of the election protest against Robredo on its merit.

In a resolution dated Jan. 30 but only made public Thursday, the PET ruled that there exists sufficient basis to take jurisdiction over the Marcos’ election protest when it junked Robredo’s motion to dismiss the case.

“Verily, the Tribunal affirms its jurisdiction over the instant protest, which is sufficient in form and substance. The protestee’s [Robredo] prayer to dismiss the protest for lack of jurisdiction and for being insufficient in form and substance is denied,” the PET said.

It held that the Marcos’ 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.

Contrary to Robredo’s claim, the PET said they have jurisdiction to act on the electoral protest as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

“Section IV, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution in relation to Rule 13 of the 2010 PET Rules provides that the Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President and Vice President. The phrase “election, 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 Certificates of Canvass,’ the PET resolution said.

Nonetheless, the electoral tribunal clarified that while they found the protest sufficient in form and substance, the veracity of Marcos’ allegations against Robredo has yet to be proven.

In her verified answer to Marcos’s protest, Robredo argued that the PET has no jurisdiction over the election protest because it improperly questions the authenticity and due execution of the COCs and that it should have been raised in a pre-proclamation case before Congress acting as the National Board of Canvassers.

In a statement, the Marcos camp through his lawyer Victor Rodriguez immediately welcomed the PET resolution.

“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,” Rodriguez said.

“We just want the truth to come out. It’s that simple,” the lawyer added.

In his election protest, Marcos sought the nullification of the proclamation of Robredo as duly elected vice president of the country as this was a result of massive electoral frauds committed to ensure her victory.

In particular, Marcos is contesting the election results in 39,221 clustered precincts in 25 provinces and five highly urbanized cities all over the country.

The former senator alleged that through a series of electoral frauds, anomalies and irregularities, people behind the whole operation made sure that Robredo would win and that Marcos’ votes would be reduced.

Marcos explained that his petition has three parts—the first is the “flawed” Automated Election System [AES]; the second consists of the more “traditional” modes of cheating like vote buying, pre-shading, intimidation and failure of elections, among others; and the third focuses on the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new hash code (or a new script or program) into the Transparency Server as well as the effects brought about by the unauthorized change.

The case has reportedly been raffled to Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, last appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III to the Supreme Court.

Caguioa is tasked to study the protest and submit recommendations for actions of the PET.

Marcos earlier said he decided to file the electoral protest due to the series of frauds, anomalies and irregularities that marred the May 9 elections and that such activities made sure he would lose to Robredo, the vice presidential candidate of the administration’s Liberal Party.

In the same ruling, the PET junked Marcos plea calling on the Court to dismiss Robredo’s verified answer to her protest and expunge it from the records saying that Robredo was able to file it within the time required for her to do so.

Robredo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, played down the significance of the PET finding, saying it did not reflect the validity or merits of any allegations of fraud.

“This means that Mr. Marcos is just being given the opportunity to prove his case,” he said.

Macalintal said the case would still go through the usual tedious and lengthy process of revision and recount of the ballots.

The ballot boxes and their contents would be retrieved from various provinces to be brought to the PET for the recount, he added.

Macalintal said he would have enough time to study what legal remedies to take.