GMA News Online – Marcos urges PET to assign hearing officers to hasten poll protest proceedings

By Virgil Lopez | GMA News Online

Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has asked the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to assign hearing officers to help expedite the resolution of his poll protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The PET is set to hold a preliminary conference on June 21 in connection with Marcos’ protest, which Robredo challenged by filing a counter protest.

During the preliminary conference, the parties are expected to discuss the issues to be resolved, the list of witnesses and the evidence to be presented as well as the schedule of hearings and the revision of the ballots.

For Marcos, the designation of at least three separate hearing officers for the protest’s three causes of action would aid the PET in resolving the case in a “prompt and efficient manner.”

Marcos had raised with the PET the “flawed” Automated Election System (AES), the failure of elections in several provinces in Mindanao and the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new script into the transparency server on the day of the elections (May 9, 2016).

Filed last Friday, the motion noted that the designation of hearing officers prior to the conduct of the preliminary conference is consistent with the “summary nature and preferential status of election protest cases.”

“In a long line of decided cases, this Honorable Tribunal has consistently ruled that an election case, unlike an ordinary action, is imbued with public interest since it involves not only the adjudication of the private interests of rival candidates but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty which beclouds the real choice of the electorate with respect to who shall discharge the prerogatives of the office within their gift,” the motion stated.

The motion reiterated the need to resolve the poll protest soon “not only for the benefit of the winner but for the sake of public interest, which can only be achieved by brushing aside technicalities of procedure which protract and delay the trial of an ordinary action.”

The former senator is contesting the poll results in 39,221 clustered precincts, which the Commission on Elections said are composed of 132,446 precincts, while the vice president is questioning the results in 8,042 clustered precincts which are composed of 31,278 precincts.

Marcos lost to Robredo by just 263,473 votes in the May 2016 elections, which the former senator claimed was marred by fraud.

Both camps were ordered to raise P81.46 million for the poll protest, which the PET said would be used for the retrieval of contested ballot boxes and election documents from contested precincts nationwide.

Marcos had already paid the cash deposit of P36.02 million while Robredo paid P8 million.

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