By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
THE election protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo has been stalled for five months, and the former accused the latter on Monday of resorting to delaying tactics to prevent the “truth” that the May 2016 vice presidential race was rigged.
Robredo is opposing Marcos’ motion to hold a preliminary conference on the case at the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), despite rules mandating such after the filing of the last pleading on September 9, 2016.
“To date, more than five (5) months have lapsed since the filing of the Answer Ad Cautelam to the Counter-Protest, the last pleading in this case. It thus behooves this Honorable Tribunal to immediately schedule the conduct of the Preliminary Conference in this case as mandated by its own Rules of Procedure,” the Marcos camp said in a 10-page reply to Robredo’s opposition to a preliminary conference.
During the election protest of former Interior secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd following the 2010 vice presidential race, it took the PET only two months after the case was filed to schedule a preliminary conference, it noted.
The Marcos camp said Robredo’s argument that pending issues needed to be resolved first by the tribunal was misleading since the Supreme Court itself had ruled that in election cases, such proceedings could move independently of each other.
“In a long line of decided cases, the Supreme Court has held that in an election protest, different causes of action can proceed independently of each other. This is because the sovereign will of the people is the core issue in an election protest. Thus, the purpose of a preliminary conference is precisely to avoid unnecessary delays and speed up the process so that the people’s voice will be heard,” Marcos lawyer George Garcia stressed.
Garcia said the preliminary conference will tackle issues such as the unused secure digital or SD cards found to have data, diagnostics and shutting down of the server at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) warehouse in Santa Rosa, Laguna and other procedural matters.
“The conduct of the Preliminary Conference cannot be stifled by the pending incidents in this case. To rule otherwise will open the floodgates to abuses by incumbent protestees who will conveniently file flimsy and dilatory motions in order to drag the proceedings in an election protest. Protracted delays in the resolution of electoral contest cases will only benefit protestees like Robredo – at the expense of the electorate,” Garcia said.
“If Robredo has nothing to hide, why does she keep trying to delay the proceedings? What is there to fear about a simple preliminary conference?” he added.
Garcia also accused the Robredo camp of raising issues that were either moot and academic or were not prejudicial to the conduct of the preliminary conference.
For instance, Robredo raised Marcos’ previous opposition to the stripping of vote-counting machines, an issue that has become moot and academic because the stripping and backup had already commenced.
“By not taking care of the servers and other hardware in its Santa Rosa, Laguna warehouse, the Comelec was grossly remiss in its duty to protect the public interest. Why should protestant Marcos be punished for this?” he said.
Marcos, who lost the vice presidential race by only 263,473 votes, accused Robredo of benefiting from “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” such as preshading of ballots, pre-loaded SD cards, misreading of ballots, malfunction “abnormally high” unaccounted votes or “undervotes.”