By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
The Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has ordered Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo to comment on the appeal filed by Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to reverse its ruling on the former senator's protest questioning the result of the 2016 vice presidential race.
The directive came in the form of a resolution issued by the PET dated June 15 in response to a motion for reconsideration filed by the Marcos camp.
Marcos argued the justices were divided on the ruling and did not side thoroughly with the ponente, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Robredo was given 10 days to submit her comment.
The PET also "resolved to consider" as served the resolutions on the matter raised by former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loreta Ann Rosales who intervened in the case.
Marcos, in his appeal, said Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta objected to Leonen's ponencia, saying the case must be dismissed outright since the third cause of action - the Annulment of Elections in the provinces of Basilan, Lanao Del Sur and Maguindanao - is a separate action that can stand on its own.
With this, Peralta took note Marcos should not be blamed for the absence of rules on the Annulment of Elections.
"The absence of a specific rule should not dissuade the tribunal from taking cognizance and giving due course to contests praying for the annulment of election results," he said.
His opinion was echoed by Justice Samuel Gaerlan.
"This Court has consistently recognized the existence of annulment of elections as a remedy available to a losing candidate if it be alleged an election is tainted with irregularities and frauds so numerous and so undeniably characteristic of an intention to defraud and defeat the true expression of the will of the electorate," he said.
"This is what we are fighting for. And this is what we will continue to fight for," Marcos said in his appeal. "We owe it to the more than 14 Filipinos who voted for Bongbong Marcos and more so to the millions more whose votes went missing, to pursue this fight to the very end. When all is said and done, the true will of the electorate should be heard."
In a 92 -page decision last February, the PET dismissed Marcos' election protest, but was divided 8-7 in Leonen's ponencia.
Marcos emphasized that the Office of the Solicitor-General and the Commission on Elections took his side Annulment of Elections can still be ruled upon, since it is independent with the second cause of action - the Revision of Ballots.
They assailed the tribunal's error for not recognizing Marcos' third cause of action calling for the annulment of election results as independent, distinct, and separate from his second cause of action which is the judicial review and revision of ballots in three pilot provinces - Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental and Iloilo.
"What is at stake here is the second highest position in the country. This is not something to be taken lightly. To dismiss such an important election protest because of "the absence of procedural rules" is an affront to our Constitutional right of due process," the document read.
Marcos argued "technicalities should not be a bar to the determination of the people's will. This is what democracy is all about: upholding the sovereignty of the people. The best way to remove any doubt regarding the legitimacy of any candidate is for the case to proceed."
"With all due respect, the majority opinion's assertion that protestant's allegations appeared bare and laden with generic and repetitious allegations is quite pretentious given Robredo's counter-protest, which was likewise found by the tribunal to be sufficient in form and content, did not contain a single evidence in support of the material averments alleged therein," it added.
The PET was asked since Marcos's election protest involves three distinct, separate, and independent causes of action, the dismissal of the second [cause of action] should not have led to the dismissal of the third [cause of action] nor of the entire election protest.
Marcos appealed to the PET to allow a technical examination of the report prepared by the Comelec and verify the authenticity of 40,528 signatures and 3,295 thumbprints - most of which are not identical to the original signatures according to Comelec's own findings.
He said after waiting patiently for almost five years and after paying a hefty deposit of P66 million, he should at the very least be accorded his Constitutional right to due process to present his case until the end.
"There is a reason why our lady justice has blinders over her eyes. She is supposed to render a decision based on all the evidence presented, without any regard as to the personalities or the parties involved - however controversial they may be. She is bound to mete out justice without fear or favor. And if by chance her decision is not popular, she will find solace in the fact it was the right one," Marcos said.
Marcos lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes. He accused her of "massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities" such as pre-shading of ballots, pre-loaded Secure Digital cards, and misreading of ballots.