By Rey E. Requejo and Rio N. Araja | Manila Standard
Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday expressed disappointment that the Supreme Court did not dismiss outright the election protest filed against her by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who saw this as a positive sign that his case was still alive.
The Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, did not issue a decision on the protest as many had expected it would, but instead ordered the release to both camps the report on the recount, revision and appreciation of ballots in three provinces—Iloilo, Camarines Sur and Negros Oriental, which Marcos had identified as pilot areas in his protest.
Court spokesman Brian Kieth Hosaka said the Court also ordered both parties to submit their comment on a move by the Marcos camp to include the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao in the recount.
Neither side would receive the recommendation by justice-in-charge Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, whom sources said had called for the dismissal of Marcos’ protest.
The PET did not confirm this recommendation, however, nor say how the voting went, but reports said Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Caguioa dissented from the majority decision to release the recount report because Marcos “failed to make substantial recovery in the three pilot provinces.”
Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, who is retiring on Oct. 18, and Carpio, who is also retiring on Oct. 26, can no longer participate in the resolution of the Marcos election protest.
The Court will go on its decision-writing period from Oct. 18 to Nov. 3 and will resume sessions on Nov. 4.
Thereafter, it will go on recess for the Christmas holidays and return to work after the New Year.
The manual recount and revision of ballots in 1,400 boxes from 5,418 clustered precincts in the three pilot provinces were finished by the PET last year.
Marcos questioned the results in 132,446 precincts in 27 provinces and cities. He identified the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental with 1,400 ballot boxes in 5,415 clustered precincts for the initial phase of the recount and revision.Robredo also filed a counter-protest against Marcos involving 31,278 precincts. The two cases were later consolidated.
Based on the 2016 election results, Robredo was declared a winner in the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than the 14,155,344 votes garnered by Marcos.
Earlier, Robredo asked the PET for a copy of the summary and committee reports on the recount and revision of ballots in the three provinces, saying this would put an end to the speculation.
Supporters and allies of Marcos and Robredo gathered at the Supreme Court grounds early Tuesday morning, in anticipation of a PET decision on the poll protest.
Marcos welcomed Tuesday’s action.
“I am happy because my electoral protest (against Robredo) will continue. The Court rejected the recommendation of Justice Caguioa to dismiss the entire petition,” Marcos said. “So this means that the case is alive and will continue. We will pursue our case until we are able to present all our evidence before the electoral tribuna.”
In August, Marcos accused Caguioa, the member-in-charge of his protest, of being biased. Marcos added that Robredo has already robbed him of three years out of a six-year term.
“Of course it’s frustrating but what are you going to do? You have to trust the wisdom of our justices and besides the case is complicated; it is the first time any presidential protest has arrived at this stage,” Marcos said.
Marcos filed his protest in 2016, claiming that Robredo won through electoral fraud.
At a news conference, Robredo said she was “half relieved” by Tuesday’s order, saying this would help promote transparency in the case.
But she also said she was dismayed that the protest against her election victory had not been dismissed.
“He [Marcos] selected the three provinces which best exemplify fraud. In accordance with Rule 65 of the PET, these would be the basis of a recount. Should there be no substantial recovery, the protest must be dismissed,” Robredo said.
“[And] Now, he is requesting additional areas—Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan—to be included in the recount,” she added.
Congress, she said, had already declared her the winner.
“What more does he need to make him believe that he did not win?” she asked.
Hosaka on Tuesday identified Carpio and Caguioa as the dissenters but could not say why they dissented from the majority decision, but court insiders said the two justices felt Marcos had not made a substantial recovery after the tallies in the three pilot provinces were made.
They invoked PET rules that provide that a protest may be dismissed without considering other provinces mentioned if there is no substantial recovery from the chosen pilot provinces.
Romulo Macalintal, counsel for the Vice President, said that Carpio and Caguioa’s dissent is proof that they are correct in saying that there was no substantial recovery of Marcos votes in the three pilot provinces.
While Macalintal said that while there was a departure from PET rules, he remained optimistic.
The majority of the justices who voted to release the committee report were Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Paul Hernando, Rosmari Carandang, Amy Lazaro-Javier, Henri Inting, and Rodil Zalameda.
Malacañang on Tuesday said it will respect and abide by the decision of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal on the electoral protest case filed by Marcos.
“Whatever the decision on the court, we will, we should abide by it,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.
“We never interfere with the function and duty and work of any co-equal branch as well as independent constitutional bodies, so, we’ll leave it at that,” Panelo added. With MJ Blancaflor