The Manila Times - Yellow problems

By Jojo Robles | The Manila Times

THE amazing thing is not that Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo has shed a reported 21,000 votes so far in the ongoing recount being conducted by the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. What’s truly mind-boggling is that the reduction in Robredo’s votes was recorded at all, given all the strange things that have happened to the ballots being recounted in her home province of Camarines Sur.

According to reports emanating from the PET, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is protesting Robredo’s victory in the 2016 elections, posted a gain that is nearly 10 percent of the vice president’s final official lead of 260,000 – with only a small portion of the Camarines Sur vote accounted for so far. This despite the fact that many ballots recovered from the province have been rendered unreadable due to what Robredo’s lawyer once described as “normal” occurrences – everything from two-year-old rainfall that somehow entered waterproof ballot boxes and stayed there to battery acid in those same receptacles.

And the votes recounted do not as yet include those from big localities in Camarines Sur like the capital of Naga City, Iriga City and towns like Libmanan. It would be truly interesting to see how the vote goes in the recount in those places, especially in Naga, the bailiwick and anchor of Robredo’s district when she was still a congresswoman.

Robredo and her supporters in the Liberal Party should be panicking already. Or at the very least, they should be scheduling a fresh round of pray-overs by the religious leaders who regularly storm the heavens with their petitions for Robredo to preserve her so-called victory.

The odds are definitely not in Robredo’s favor. But of course, that’s a familiar situation for her – nobody gave her a chance of winning, and yet she pulled it off overnight on that fateful day two years ago.

What’s becoming a real possibility, as well, is for the vice-presidential protest to be decided in Camarines Sur alone. Apart from the recount itself, the anomalies that have been discovered in the ballots cast and in the boxes that are supposed to secure them could become numerous enough to warrant a nullification of the vote in the province.

In such a case, there will be no more need to continue the recount. A voiding of all the votes cast in Camarines Sur will already be sufficient grounds to nullify the results in Robredo’s favor, according to legal experts I’ve talked to, thereby rendering her victory void as well and paving the way for her replacement by Marcos.

What can be expected to happen in this scenario is a storm of legal petitions from Robredo’s camp, in order to stop the PET from unseating her even before the recount in all three provinces identified by Marcos is completed. And since we’ve long entered uncharted legal territory here, having gone where no protest has gone before, no one really knows what will happen.

What we do know is that the recount so far could force the hand of Robredo and her camp into trying extra-legal measures. You know, the kind of propaganda storm-cum-mass action strategy that has worked for the Yellows so many times before.

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Already, we are seeing how a similar campaign is now being waged in order to stop the Supreme Court from ousting Chief Justice (on leave) Maria Lourdes Sereno. A self-styled “broad coalition” is hard at work calling on the Senate, in paid advertisements and self-serving press releases in the traditional media, to ignore the high court’s deliberations and eventual decision on the quo warranto petition filed against Sereno and to proceed directly with trying the impeachment case against her.

The problem with this course of action is that it not only presumes that the high court will oust Sereno on its own. It also implies that the high court does not have any jurisdiction over the case to disqualify the chief justice – a very dangerous proposition that Sereno herself espoused long ago, since even the 1987 Constitution only says that impeachment “may” be one of the ways to remove impeachable officials like her.

I really wonder if the members of this supposed broad coalition – the narrowest I’ve ever heard of, really, since the list of signatories reads like a who’s who of diehard Aquino supporters, nothing more – want to pursue this course of action of ignoring the Supreme Court. And I doubt very much if even the Senate itself will agree to go on a collision course with the tribunal in the quo warranto case, which is clearly different from the impeachment trial where the Senate alone has jurisdiction.

This will leave Sereno’s supporters in the Yellow coalition with no other alternative but to take to the streets. And we know, judging from the last two EDSA Revolution anniversaries, that there’s next to no chance of the backers of the protect-Sereno getting the numbers they seek to somehow come up with a repeat of their 1986 “victory.”

Of course, not even the most hard-core Yellows in the pro-Sereno coalition will declare that the same Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, has no jurisdiction in the case of Robredo. And because the members of the coalition are practically interchangeable with the crowd (I use that term loosely, of course) that is backing Robredo, I don’t know how they will fight this battle on two fronts simultaneously against the same court.

After all, the Yellows cannot very well argue that the same tribunal that they feel is intent on ousting Sereno without any jurisdiction is also hell-bent on removing Robredo and replacing her with Marcos. Or maybe they can; they just haven’t sorted out the legal arguments that they intend to use in the two cases, so they don’t look like total fools when they present them.

But that’s really a Yellow problem that the vast majority of Filipinos who have long since discarded the Aquino mythology do not have to deal with. Indeed, if the people themselves instead of the Supreme Court were given the task of deciding the cases of both Robredo and Sereno, these two would probably be out of a job tomorrow.

Then they would be free to join the coalition that wants to keep them where they are, regardless of what the ultimate arbiter of the law and the Constitution – yes, the same Supreme Court whose job it is to decide both cases – says.