Philippine Canadian Inquirer – Comelec to obey PET ruling on payment of ballot storage fees

By Philippine News Agency 

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday it will comply with the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) which denied its petition seeking to order the camp of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. to pay the storage fees worth over PHP4 million of Philippine Foreign Posts as a result of the Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) issued by the Tribunal in relation to the latter’s election protest.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said Monday they are no longer considering the filing of a motion for reconsideration on the matter.

“The Comelec accepts the ruling of the PET in the spirit of facilitating the resolution of this case,” he said.

In a six-page Resolution dated October 10, 2017, the PET told Comelec that it should bear the responsibility of shouldering the storage fees and other incidental fees incurred by the poll body as a result of its decision not to return the ballot boxes and other election materials in several Philippine foreign posts to the Comelec headquarters in Manila because it was not prevented from doing so by both the Tribunal and Marcos.

The Comelec had earlier asked the Tribunal to order Marcos to pay the storage fees and other incidental expenses the foreign posts had allegedly incurred amounting to over PHP4.5 million for New York and Hongkong alone as a result of the PPO issued in relation to Marcos’ protest.

The poll body said that since the PPO ordered them to preserve and safeguard the integrity of the ballots and other election materials, they could not bring them back to the Comelec office in Manila within the required period and so the same had to be stocked in the foreign posts which resulted in additional costs.

But the Tribunal rejected Comelec’s motion saying it had no basis. It ruled that the PPO did not prohibit them from transferring the ballots to the Comelec main office in Manila and could have easily done so by just securing the Tribunal’s permission.

“There is nothing in the PPO that prohibited the physical transfer of the election materials and paraphernalia; the Comelec was merely required to preserve and safeguard their integrity. Thus, the Comelec’s proffered reason that its faithful compliance to the PPO has no basis,” the PET stated.

It further ruled, “(a)s mentioned, the PPO is clear in that the Comelec and its agents were ordered to preserve and safeguard the integrity of the election materials and paraphernalia which could be done even if they needed to be transmitted to Comelec Central Office.”

In fact, on several occasions, according to the Tribunal, the Comelec despite the PPO, had moved and was granted permission by the Tribunal to move election materials. This is the reason why, stated the Tribunal, it could not understand why the Comelec did not make a similar move on the ballot materials in the custody of foreign posts.

“As to why it would treat differently materials and paraphernalia in the custody of the Posts escapes this Tribunal as the PPO did not make such distinction. Indeed, the Comelec could have simply secured permission from the Tribunal for their transfer to the Comelec Central Office. The Comelec made no such request,” it said.

The PET further declared that ordering Marcos to pay for such expenses is unwarranted since he did not ask to prevent the poll body from removing the materials from the foreign posts.

“Protestant never requested that the election materials and paraphernalia be physically retained in the custody of the Posts. Rather, it was the Comelec that made the decision not to instruct the Posts to transmit the election materials and paraphernalia to the Comelec Central Office, despite the absence of any prohibition for the same. Had the Comelec made such instruction, the Subject Expenses would not have been incurred. Accordingly, the Comelec must bear the responsibility of paying for the Subject Expenses incurred by the Posts,” the PET said.

For his part, lawyer Victor Rodriguez, spokesman of Marcos lauded the PET ruling saying it was a “positive development” in the midst of unabashed moves to derail the proceedings by making it more cumbersome for the former Senator.

“This is certainly a very positive development for Senator Marcos. As you can see, our opponents are making things more difficult for us by trying to delay the case and making us pay left and right without any basis. We are glad that the PET denied these unfounded and unnecessary moves so our case can finally move forward,” he said in a statement.

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