By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has told the Supreme Court that as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), it has the power to validate or annul the election returns from three Mindanao provinces which former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. claims were tainted with fraud.
Marcos filed a protest before the tribunal after losing the 2016 vice presidential election to Maria Leonor Robredo.
The PET solicited the opinion of the Solicitor General before deciding Marcos’ protest.
In its 38-page comment, the OSG said that under Article VII, Section 4 of the Constitution the tribunal “shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President and may promulgate rules for the purpose.”
“The Presidential Electoral Tribunal has the power to declare the Annulment of Elections or a Failure of Elections without infringing upon the authority of the Commission on Elections (Comelec),” the comment, signed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, stated.
It said the PET was within its authority to declare an annulment of elections or a failure of elections.
What it cannot do is conduct special elections, which infringes on the authority of Comelec, the OSG said.
The PET’s “mandate under the Constitution is clear — to be the ‘sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the president or vice president,’” it added.
A failure of elections must be declared before any poll winner is proclaimed, an annulment of elections must be declared after an electoral contest and during election protests, it said.
In Marcos’ case, “it is indubitable that even if the votes cast in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan are declared null and void, there is no failure to elect to speak of. On the contrary the ultimate winner, or the one with the majority (or plurality) of the valid votes cast, is easily determinable,” the OSG said.
The case has been pending before the PET for more than four years, having been filed by Marcos on June 29, 2016.
Supreme Court Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen, the ponente of the case, wanted a comment from OSG before the tribunal moved ahead.
After Leonen took over the case on Oct. 29, 2019, he required Marcos and Robredo to submit separate memoranda last January to get the case going.
Since then the case has barely moved forward.
In his memorandum, Marcos , the son of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, argued he can prove that the voter’s signatures from 2,756 clustered precincts in the three Mindanao provinces were fraudulent.
In her memorandum, Robredo asked the PET to dismiss the protest.
Voting 11 to 2 on Oct. 15, 2019, the PET rejected Robredo’s and the recommendation of Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa to dismiss the Marcos protest outright.
Leonen, however, held off the tribunal’s decision by getting the nod of 11 justices to first get the opinion of the OSG to make sure that the PET will not be stepping on Comelec’s toes.
Marcos lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes.