By Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard
The Office of the Solicitor General on Tuesday defended its position opposing Vice President Leni Robredo’s appeal to the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to reconsider its ruling that set the 50-percent shading threshold for the validity of the votes in the ongoing election recount on the 2016 vice presidential race.
Solicitor General Jose Calida rejected Robredo’s assertion that his office should have represented the Commission on Elections in the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and support the commission’s position that the PET should follow the 25-percent threshold used by the poll body during the canvassing of votes.
Marcos filed his protest on June 29 2016, claiming Robredo’s camp cheated in the May 2016 national elections.
Robredo won the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos’ 14,155,344 votes.
In a statement posted on his official Twitter account, Calida invoked his power as the “tribune of the people.”
“As the People’s Tribune, it is the Solicitor General’s duty to present to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal the position he perceives to be in the best interest of the Republic, notwithstanding the stance of his client, specifically the Comelec, on the issue,” Calida said.
He said the high court itself had acknowledged this authority of his office in its decision in Pimentel vs. Comelec in 2001, which held that “the Solicitor General may, as it has in instances, take a position adverse and contrary to that of the government on the reasoning that it is incumbent upon him to present to the court what he considers would legally uphold the best interest of the government although it may run counter to a client’s position.”
Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay also invoked the same power in the case involving the Torre de Manila condominium in Manila when he dropped the National Historical Commission of the Philippines as a client in the 2015 case also due to differing positions.
Calida issued his statement after Robredo criticized him for dropping the position of the Comelec and even called him the “number one Marcos supporter.”
In his manifestation filed on July 6, Calida asked the PET to deny the appeal of Robredo and instead affirm its resolution on April 10, which invalidated the votes shaded by less than 50 percent in the ongoing manual recount.
He said the Comelec would file its own position on the issue through its legal division.
He said that in the vice presidential elections, it was the PET that had “the sole authority to judge all contests” and the Comelec had no jurisdiction over the case.
He also said the matter on what percentage of the threshold should be applied in determining the validity of votes was already settled by the tribunal in its Rules promulgated in 2010.
In her appeal before the PET, Robredo insisted that the Comelec had set the threshold at 25 percent and that it informed the court about it through a letter in September 2016. The letter informed the court that the 25-percent threshold would be used for the May 9, 2016 national and local elections.
However, Calida said the letter cited by Robredo actually referred to “an optical scan counting” and not manual counting, which is being carried out by the tribunal.
He disputed her claim that votes would be disenfranchised because of the 50-percent threshold set by the Tribunal.
“Differently stated, insofar as the voters were concerned, they knew that for their votes to be counted they should fully shade the oval space,” he said.