By Tetch Torres-Tupas | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor General reminded the Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) that it has no power to order a special election.
In its order last September, the PET asked both the OSG and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to comment on the pending issues in the electoral protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo.
The Tribunal wants to know if there are failure of elections petitions filed for Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao in the conduct of the 2016 elections. It also asked both the OSG and the Comelec to comment on whether it is empowered by the 1987 Constitution to declare the annulment of elections without the conduct of the special election or declare a failure of elections and order a special election.
The annulment of votes in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan on allegations of harassment of voters, terrorism and pre-shading of ballots is Marcos’ third cause of action in his protest in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts.
The OSG, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, said the Tribunal could only declare a failure of elections but not order the conduct of special elections.
Calida said the PET’s power to declare the annulment of elections or a failure of elections is provided in Section 4 (7), Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.
“Jurisprudence has established and recognized the PET’s sole and exclusive power to hear election protests involving the President and Vice President,” said Calida.
“The PET’s power to determine, via an electoral protest, the actual winner in the election for President and Vice President or who between the candidates received the majority of the valid votes cast, necessarily includes the determination of whether there was failure of elections. This is also consistent with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the phrase election, returns, and qualifications as referring to all matters affecting the validity of the contestee’s title,” he added.
“In the case at bar, it is indubitable that even if the votes cast in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan are declared null and void, there is no failure to elect to speak of. On the contrary, the ultimate winner, or the one with the majority (or plurality) of the valid votes cast, is easily determinable,” said Calida.
Robredo has 477, 985 votes in Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao while Marcos only has 169,160 votes.
If the three provinces’ votes are nullified, Robredo’s slim lead over Marcos will be wiped out.
Calida told the high court to immediately resolve the case once all the parties have submitted their replies. [ac]