THE Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has allowed former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s election protest against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo to proceed, declaring it “sufficient in form and substance.”
In an eight-page resolution dated January 24, the tribunal dismissed Robredo’s claim that Marcos’ accusations of cheating and vote-buying were just a “series of wild accusations, guesses and surmises.”
The tribunal also rejected Robredo’s argument that it had no jurisdiction over the case. Robredo claimed Marcos improperly raised before the electoral tribunal the authenticity of Certificates of Canvass (COCs), which she said should have been raised in a pre-proclamation case filed before Congress acting as the National Board of Canvassers.
“Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, in relation to Rule 13 of the 2010 PET Rules, provides that the Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all elections contests relating to the election, returns, and disqualifications of the President or Vice President of the Philippines. The phrase ‘election, returns and qualifications’ refers to all matters affecting the validity of the contestee’s title, which includes questions on the validity, authenticity and correctness of the COCs,” the tribunal said.
Marcos spokesman and lawyer Victor Rodriguez said the tribunal effectively denied the motion of Robredo to conduct a preliminary hearing on the election protest or dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction.
“We are hoping that with this resolution, there will be an end to all these delays and we can finally move forward. There is a need to ferret out the truth as to what really transpired during the vice-presidential race last May,” said Rodriguez in a statement.
Robredo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, downplayed the significance of the resolution, saying it was a procedural matter.
“It only means that the PET will proceed with the case. It does not in any way reflect the validity or merits of any allegation of fraud or irregularity contesting the proclamation of Vice President Leni Robredo,” Macalintal said. “As to the veracity of [Marcos’] allegations, nothing yet has been proved.”
“The case would still go through the usual tedious and lengthy process of revision and recount of the ballots,” Macalintal said.
“The ballot boxes and their contents would be retrieved from various provinces to be brought to the PET for the recount. Meanwhile, we have enough time to study the remedies available,” he added.
Not out of time
Marcos, who lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes, accuses the camp of the former Camarines Sur representative of benefiting from “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” such as pre-shading of ballots, pre-loaded secure digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning vote-counting machines, and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes for the position of vice president in the 2016 polls.
The tribunal also dismissed the plea of Marcos that Robredo’s response to the election protest must be junked for being filed out of time.
Records showed Robredo received the summons and election protest on August 3, 2016, not on August 2.
“Consequently, the protestee (Robredo) had until August 13, 2016 to file her answer; and considering that August 13, 2016 was a Saturday, the filing of verified answer and counter-protest on August 15, 2016 was timely because that was the next working day,” the tribunal said.
WITH JOMAR CANLAS AND LLANESCA T. PANTI