By Rey E. Requejo and Rio N. Araja| Manila Standard
The Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has required the Commission on Elections to comment on some issues related to the third cause of action of the election protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against his rival, Leni Robredo, as the duly elected vice president in the 2016 national elections.
The PET’s action came after 11 months of dormancy despite the tribunal’s rejection on Oct. 15, 2019, of the controversial decision of Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa.
Caguioa had recommended the dismissal of the entire election protest after Robredo’s lead increased with 14,436,337 votes following a revision and appreciation of the ballots in the pilot provinces over Marcos, who obtained 14,157,771 votes. After the revision and appreciation of the votes, Robredo’s lead increased from 263,473 to 278,566.
The Marcos camp welcomed the latest assertion by the tribunal “on the validity of our second cause of action calling for the annulment of the election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao as separate and distinct from the manual recount and judicial revision.”
“Notwithstanding such affirmation, we view with extreme reservation the route chosen by the justice in charge. Instead of directly proceeding with the technical examination and forensic investigation he lamentably added another layer that would cause tremendous delay in referring the matter to the Office of the Solicitor General and the Comelec to file their respective Comment,” Marcos spokesman and lawyer Vic Rodriguez said in a statement.
“Considering the very thin time left in the term of the contested position, our protest is under real threat of becoming moot and academic by events leading to 2022 such as the filing of candidacy, campaign and national election that would reduce the clamor and right of the people to know who really won the vice presidency illusory,” Rodriguez added.
In the latest resolution, the 15-member electoral tribunal ordered that the Comelec and the OSG be furnished copies of its Oct. 15, 2019 resolution and of the separate memoranda submitted by the Marcos and Robredo camps on that resolution.
The PET ordered the Comelec to file its comment within 20 days on certain issues related to Marcos’ third cause of action, particularly the annulment of the results of the elections held in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao in 2016 due to alleged terrorism, intimidation, voter harassment and the pre-shading of ballots.
The PET also required the Comelec and the OSG to comment on whether the tribunal had the power to declare the annulment of elections without special elections, a failure of elections, and order the conduct of special elections.
The tribunal also ordered the Comelec and the OSG to comment on whether the tribunal’s declaration of failure of elections, and an order for special elections, would violate the Comelec’s mandate under the Constitution.
It also ordered the Comelec to report to the PET on whether the petitions for failure of elections were filed in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao, their resolution, whether special elections were held in the areas with failure of elections, and the results of those special polls.
Robredo on Wednesday welcomed the high court’s order
“The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo welcomes the latest PET order as this will help fast-track the resolution of the election protest,” Robredo’s lawyer Beng Sardillo said in a statement.
“We will comply with the High Tribunal’s order and wait for the comments of the Comelec and the Solicitor General on the pending matters.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party said it remained hopeful that the Supreme Court would exhibit urgency in deciding the election protest filed against Robredo.
“We remain confident that the truth will finally be upheld, so that this issue may be laid to rest,” the party said in a statement.
“VP Robredo defeated Marcos by 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential elections. This lead further grew to 278,566 votes with an additional 15,093 votes from a recount that Mr. Marcos himself pushed for.”