By Erwin Tulfo | Manila Standard
May. This is a word that expresses possibility. Remember this word, because its interpretation could determine who gets to sit at the second-highest position in our country.
As I write this column, the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has deferred for the second time the voting on Bongbong Marcos’ election protest against sitting Vice President Leni Robredo. The PET reset the voting this coming Oct. 15.
A mob of more or less 700 people gathered in front of the Supreme Court on Padre Faura, Manila shouting militant-style slogans in support of Robredo while at the same time viciously berating Bongbong. A group even went to extreme lengths by burning an effigy of the election protest document filed by Marcos in 2016—reminiscent of scenes in communist-backed militant groups’ protests.
They strongly urged the PET to dismiss Marcos’ election protest because they claimed, the former senator did not show substantial in his three pilot precincts in the recount of votes.
I pity our Supreme Court justices who had to endure this circus right in their backyard. Robredo and her yellow cohorts were betting that by harassing and intimidating the justices, they would win them over. This is a serious misstep. By letting this rowdy mob loose, they may have caused the SC justices to become averse and inadvertently turn the tide in favor of Bongbong.
The Robredo group obviously has insider information on the contents of the report of Justice Benjamin Caguioa. There is no doubt they used that advance information in controlling the narrative in this issue. The media apparatus of the Liberal Party was already in full swing long before this week’s deferment. Social media was abuzz with memes and Facebook posts in favor of Robredo. Even washed-out columnists emerged from the woodwork to throw in their skewed opinion.
Having a lot to lose if Robredo is defeated, LP’s top brass has removed the proverbial kid gloves and opened its war chest to finance an enormous media campaign to discredit Marcos.
Notwithstanding the drama, the argument peddled by yellow columnists and pro-Robredo Facebook pages call for the immediate dismissal of the case and frequently cite Rule 65 of the PET as a compelling reason.
It reads as follows: “Dismissal; when proper.—The Tribunal may require the protestant or counter-protestant to indicate, within a fixed period, the province or provinces numbering not more than three, best exemplifying the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition, and the revision of ballots and reception of evidence will begin with such provinces.
If upon examination of such ballots and proof, and after making reasonable allowances, the Tribunal is convinced that, taking all circumstances into account, the protestant or counter- protestant will most probably fail to make out his case, the protest MAY forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.”
Two things stand out when you closely examine Rule 65. First, is the use of the word “may,” which means that the justices are in no way compelled to dismiss the case solely based on the results in the manual recount. More so, her recovery of votes as alleged in the report also puts into question how the elections were managed in the pilot provinces as it showed serious errors and numerous breaches of the protocol were committed.
Second, the phrase “taking all circumstances into account,” which means that the manual recount figures in the Caguioa report would only be a part of the facts that would be considered by the magistrates. In a case like this, where the integrity of the entire election process is at stake, it is paramount that the justices take a big-picture approach in resolving this case.
In truth, there are a lot of mitigating circumstances that are reason enough for this case to move forward. The “errors” found in the pilot provinces would pale in comparison to what the PET could uncover should it decide to proceed with Bongbong’s third cause of action calling for a technical examination of election results in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan.
Is this the reason why Robredo and her team are moving heaven and earth to dismiss the case, so they could stop the reception of evidence of massive cheating in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections?
Marcos’ camp alleges that massive fraud happened in the ARMM. This position was bolstered by the findings in a technical report from Comelec on another election protest alleging that up to 80 percent of votes cast were fake. Safe to say that if this is true, Leni’s days as vice president are numbered.
The PET should decide on the case once and for all because further delays only damage their reputation as swift dispensers of justice. It is no longer just about determining who loses or wins but ultimately who stands for the truth. Justice or not.