• RETRIEVAL OF BALLOT BOXES STARTS

    PET junks Robredo bid to dismiss poll protest

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    The Supreme Court has junked the appeal of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo to dismiss the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

    The court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has given the go-signal to proceed with the revision and recount process of votes as it ordered the retrieval of ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia in three pilot provinces identified by Marcos.

    In a 34-page Resolution dated August 29, the PET dismissed for lack of merit the motion for reconsideration filed by Robredo which sought to halt the Marcos election protest.

    The high tribunal said Robredo’s arguments were merely rehashed and had been passed upon by the PET.
    This means that the case filed by Marcos against Robredo can proceed.

    “[F]inally, it is well to stress that the Motion for Reconsideration essentially restates the arguments contained in protestee’s (Robredo’s) Verified Answer and Counter-Protest, and these have already been duly considered and passed upon by the Tribunal in the Resolution dated January 24, 2017. The Tribunal finds no cogent reason to discuss these matters any further.”

    In his protest, Marcos assailed the election results in 39,221 clustered precincts. He sought a recount in 36,465 precincts and the annulment of results in the remaining 2,756.

    Based on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) data, the 39,221 clustered precincts are composed of 132,446 precincts.

    Marcos, who lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes, accused her of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” such as preshading of ballots, pre-loaded secure digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning VCMs (vote-counting machines), and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes/undervotes for the position of VP.

    Retrieval

    Also, the PET has ordered the retrieval of all the ballot boxes and election paraphernalia in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

    “Thus in consonance with Rule 65, the Tribunal hereby orders that the retrieval of ballot boxes and other election documents, revision of ballots and reception of evidence can already begin with, but shall first be confined to, only the provinces that have been designated by protestant, namely Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental,” the ruling stated.

    Actions limited

    The PET also limited Marcos’ election protest to just two causes of actions – his second and third causes of action.

    It ruled to dismiss the first cause of action, which calls for nullification of the results of the vice presidential race because of a “flawed Automated Election System (AES).

    It argued that the dismissal aims to speed up the protest because it has been averred that even if Marcos proves the first cause of action, it would not mean he won the elections because this could only be determined by a manual recount of ballots in all precincts.

    “Thus, the First Cause of Action may be dispensed with for judicial economy and prompt disposition of this case,” the PET stated.

    The two other Causes of Action upheld by the PET is for the revision and recount of all voters’ receipts, elections returns and other pertinent documents, records and equipment in 27 provinces and highly urbanized cities used in the May 2016 elections and the plea to annul the election results in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan because of “traditional” modes of cheating like vote buying, pre-shading of ballots, intimidation and failure of elections, among others.

    Macalintal to Marcos: Pay up

    Also on Tuesday, Robredo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said the PET should require Marcos to pay P2 billion for the Comelec’s continued safekeeping of 92,509 VCMs and other equipment used in the 2016 elections as he requested.

    The vice president made the call in a September 5 manifestation with urgent ex-parte motion to resolve the May 25 omnibus motion for the same pleading before the PET, Macalintal said in a news briefing.

    The PET granted Marcos’ pleading preventing Comelec from returning the 92,509 VCMs to service provider Smartmatic by issuing Precautionary Protection Order.

    Macalintal said that Marcos should pay the amount since the Senate Electoral Tribunal also made a protestee, former chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to pay P2.2 million for Comelec’s retention of 106 VCMs, which are subjects of Tolentino’s protest against Sen. Leila de Lima who secured the 12th and last spot in the 2016 Senate race.

    “We asked the PET to immediately resolve our earlier and pending clarification whether Marcos should be held liable for the P2 billion cost of retention of said VCMs by the Comelec or a resolution be issued directing Marcos to deposit the said amount,” Macalintal said.

    “Since Marcos took the same position as Tolentino, it would be very unfair if the entire Filipino people would be the ones to shoulder the said P2 billion just to sustain Marcos’ self-serving, unmeritorious and baseless election protest,” Macalintal added.

    With  LLANESCA T. PANTI

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