Rappler - In VP protest, Comelec says no failure of elections in Mindanao

3 November 2020

By LIAN BUAN | Rappler


The Comelec concedes that the Supreme Court has the power to declare an annulment of elections but cautions the justices to exercise that power 'with the greatest care'

There was no failure of elections in 2016 in the contested provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) told the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), had requested the Comelec to report to them whether there was a failure of elections in the 3 Mindanao provinces, where Bongbong Marcos alleged massive fraud during the 2016 vice presidential race.

The request for such a report was to get an answer to Marcos' 3rd cause of action, which is to declare votes in the 3 provinces null and void. If so, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the clear winner would be from the majority of the valid votes cast. This would result in Marcos' victory, as it would wipe out Vice President Leni Robredo's national margin over him.

But Comelec said that all 8 petitions to declare failure of elections in those provinces had been dismissed by the Comelec en banc. Seven of them had been issued with certificates of finality, except for the petition in Northern Kabuntalan, Maguindanao.

"Accordingly, no special elections were held or conducted in the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao in connection with the 2016 National and Local Elections (NLE)," Comelec said in its compliance to the Supreme Court. It was signed by the Comelec's Law Department Directors Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal and John Rex Laudiangco.

Calida's compliance, which leans toward Marcos, was signed by him and 21 Assistant Solicitors General.

Exercise power with 'greatest care'

Like Calida, the Comelec conceded that the PET has the power to declare the annulment of elections.

The annulment of elections, Comelec said, is a power different from their own power to declare failure of elections.

A fundamental difference according to Comelec is that when annulling elections, "electoral tribunals only annul the election results connected with the election contest before it." In declaring failure of elections, Comelec said their declaration would "relate to the entire election in the concerned precinct or political unit."

Comelec said that should PET exercise its power to annul an election, "the strictest standards and procedures of law must be set in place."

Comelec said there are 2 "indispensable requisites" for annulling an election:

1. The illegality of the ballots must affect more than 50% of the votes cast in the specific precinct or precincts sought to be annulled, or in case of the entire municipality, more than 50% of its total precincts and the votes cast therein.

2. It is impossible to distinguish with reasonable certainty between the lawful and unlawful ballots.
Citing the Supreme Court, Comelec also said that an additional requisite for an annulment of elections is that "there must be clear, convincing and strong evidence showing that the protestee is the one responsible for the unlawful acts complained of."

"The power to nullify an election must be exercised with the greatest care with a view not to disenfranchise the voters, and only under circumstances that clearly call for such drastic remedial measure," said Comelec. – Rappler.com