The Supreme Court (SC) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal has ordered the resetting of its preliminary conference on an election protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, who was accused of “massive election fraud.”
Despite a plea of Marcos for immediate resolution of his case to know who the real winner of the vice presidential race in the May 2016 elections was, the High Court again ordered a postponement of the case.
The new schedule for the preliminary conference is July 11, 2017 at 2 p.m.
“This is without prejudice to the tribunal’s resolution of all remaining pending incidents,” the SC stated.
It ruled that both parties shall file their preliminary conference briefs with the tribunal and serve the same to the adverse party at least five days before the hearing.
SC Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa is the ponente of the Marcos-Robredo election protest.
Caguioa and former President Benigno Aquino 3rd were classmates from elementary school to college at the Ateneo Law School.
He was appointed by Aquino to the High Court.
Marcos filed a motion last week to decrypt and print ballot images from Secure Digital (SD) cards and/or data storage devices from each of the 36,465 protested clustered precincts in the contested areas ahead of the scheduled preliminary conference .
The contested areas subject of the proposed decryption and printing of ballot images included the provinces of Cebu, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Masbate, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Bukidnon, Iloilo, Bohol, Quezon, Batangas, Western Samar, Misamis Oriental, Camarines Sur, Palawan, Albay, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Occidental, Pangasinan, Isabela, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City and Zamboanga City and the 2nd District of Northern Samar.
It was pointed out that the decryption and printing of the ballot images will be conducted and supervised by the Election Records and Statistics Departments (ERSD) of the Commission on Elections.
Marcos’ lawyer, George Erwin Garcia, said the decryption and printing may be ordered by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal before the scheduled preliminary conference since the 2010 Rules of the electoral tribunal allows any course of action that will expedite the proceedings.
“Rule 29 [a]of the 2010 PET Rules enumerated the items to be considered during the preliminary conference, which include among others, such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the election protest,” it was pointed out.
Such procedure will also “assist in the preparation for the recount proceedings and the presentation of evidence for the protest.”
The Marcos camp noted that the motion is without prejudice to the conduct of the Judicial Recount/Revision, Technical Examination and Forensic Investigation of the paper ballots and/or the ballot images, voter’s receipts, election returns, audit logs, transmission logs, the lists of voters, particularly the Election Day Computerized Voter’s List (EDCVL), voters registration records (VRRs) and other paraphernalia used in the May 2016 polls.
In his protest, Marcos assailed election results in 39,221 clustered precincts, 36,465 of which he prayed for the conduct of manual count and judicial revision.
Fot the remaining 2,756, he prayed for the annulment of election results.
Based on Commission on Elections data, the 39,221 clustered precincts are composed of 132,446 precincts.
The high tribunal recently ordered preservation of the “automated election equipment and records such as Vote Counting Machines (VCM), Consolidation and Canvass System (CCs) units, Secure Digital (SD) cards (main and back up) and the other data storage devices in all of the ninety two thousand five hundred nine (92,509) clustered precincts used in the May 2016 elections, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from the tribunal.”
Marcos, who lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes, accused her of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” such as preshading of ballots, pre-loaded SD cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning VCMs and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes/undervotes for the position of Vice President. JOMAR CANLAS