By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on Tuesday voted not to dismiss the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
The tribunal set junked the draft ruling prepared by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa that recommended the outright dismissal of the case.
Eleven of the justices voted to keep the case alive. Only Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio supported Caguioa’s recommendation.
Only 13 of the 14 justices participated in Tuesday’s deliberations because Associate Justice Jose Reyes is abroad.
Supreme Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the majority of the justices ruled “to release to the parties the report on the revision and appreciation of ballots in the three pilot provinces and require them to comment thereon.”
“The tribunal likewise required the parties to submit a memoranda on the various issues relating to jurisdiction and other matters relating to the third cause of action, which is the annulment of election results for vice president in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao, within a period of 20 days from receipt of the notice,” Hosaka said.
Unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times said majority of the justices voted to set aside Caguioa’s 54-page draft resolution.
“It was a consensus of the majority to let the election protest stay alive rather than to concur with the draft of Ben (Caguioa) to dismiss the case outright and declare
Robredo as the legitimate vice president,” the source said.
The source said even if the preliminary report would show that Marcos made no recovery in the three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental and Iloilo, the tribunal opted to give due process to both parties.
This means that Marcos can still assail the report of the Revision Committee by raising the issue of “wet ballots” and “violated” election returns.
“This will give a chance to both parties to prove their case,” the source said.
In his protest, Marcos assailed the election results in 39,221 clustered precincts.
He lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes.
Marcos on Tuesday said he was happy that the high tribunal ruled to continue deliberating on the poll protest he filed in 2016 against Robredo.
But he expressed frustration that his electoral protest has dragged on for three years.
“But what are you going to do? You have to trust the wisdom of our justices. In addition, the case is complicated,” he said.
“It is the first time any presidential protest arrived at this stage. Every additional day is a little bit more frustrating but again, we abide by the system,” Marcos said in a chance interview.
“Maybe after all these, we need to review our whole electoral system. It is not advantageous to our electoral system, our voters, our political system, the entire state that we wait for this long on an important decision,” he said. “What happened today is, the case goes on and we will go from strength to strength.”
Asked if he felt he was being robbed of his “term,” Marcos said, “Yes, definitely. By conducting the cheating in the election, they robbed the proper vice president who won the election, myself, from the three years of service. So, yes.”
Malacañang said it respects the PET’s decision.
The Senate minority bloc composed of Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Ana Theresia Hontiveros and Leila de Lima, however, rejected the tribunal’s ruling. “Ang dapat mangyari ngayon: i-dismiss na ang kaso. Tantanan na ang kasinungalingan. Tanggapin na ang katotohanang si Leni Robredo ang pangalawang pangulo ng bansa (What must be done now is to dismiss the [electoral] case),” they said in a joint statement.
WITH BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO