The Manila Times - SC order to COMELEC on Marcos protest timely and important

6 January 2017

The Manila Times 

The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to fast-track the closure/stripping activities of all the vote counting machines (VCMs) covered by the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in last year’s vice-presidential election.

This COMELEC order serves the public interest most vitally.

Unless this step is taken, the protest proceedings under the High Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal cannot move forward toward a resolution of the issues.

Nearly seven months have already passed since the nation held national elections on May 9, 2016. Vice-presidential candidate Marcos filed his official protest almost immediately after his opponent, then representative Maria Leonor Robredo, was proclaimed by the COMELEC as the winner of the balloting. He did so on the grounds that there were irregularities in the canvassing of the votes, and evident lapses in the automated election system (AES) process. And he has fulfilled all the requirements for such protest under the election rules.

But inexplicably, the protest proceedings, until now, have not moved forward. The COMELEC has moved sluggishly in taking the preparatory steps to facilitate a speedy recount of the votes and a speedy determination of facts regarding the claims of Mr. Marcos.

Under its chairman, Mr. Andres Bautista, the election body hascited all kinds of excuses for failure to take action. It has even tried to scare the public with the claim that the protest will cost its coffers over P2 billion to handlethe protest, because it would have to make payment for election paraphernalia from Smartmatic which were used in the election.

The dilly–dallying is inexcusable. Dealing with the protest is a matter of duty for the electionbody, just as it is a matter of duty for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to hear the protest all the way to resolution.

The issue of determining who truly won in the vice-presidential election is a matter invested with great public interest for a number of reasons.

First, the public still does not have full confidence that the COMELEC delivered to the nation an accurate and fair account of the electoral will of our people in the May election. The results, as presented by the election body, donot hang together coherently because of many discrepancies and documented breakdowns in the election process in some areas of the country.

Second, the position that is under contest is the vice-presidency of the republic, whose possessor, once legally and convincingly determined, will stand next in line to the presidency.

Third, the issue of determining who really won in the vice-presidential contest has been overtaken by feverish talk about plots of destabilization against PresidentDeuterate. This is a complication that cannot be dismissed offhand.

It is salutary that the electoral tribunal, in its resolution, also ordered the COMELEC to present the itemized cost that it may be required to pay for the automated election paraphernalia that will remain in COMELEC’s possession on account of the Marcos protest. The COMELEC has manifested that it will spend P2,078,304,225.76 on account of the election protest by holding the VCMs.

This is the proper way to proceed, and it is key to moving the protest proceedings forward.

Thiswill enable the nation to know whether there is truth to Mr. Marcos’ claim, that Ms. Robredo, through the Liberal Party, indeed committed “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” in the May 2016 election.

At the end of the line, whoever is found to be the true winner, the nation will have a real and legitimate vice-president, and not merely one who could be a mere pretender.