BY ASHZEL HACHERO and WENDELL VIGILIA
AMID reports it will issue a decision, the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal yesterday again deferred voting on the election protest filed by losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo in yesterday’s en banc session.
The magistrates instead authorized the release to the two camps of a report on the recount of votes in three pilot provinces — Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental.
“The Tribunal has decided to release to the parties the report on the revision and appreciation of ballots in the three pilot provinces, and for them to comment thereon,” SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said in a press briefing after the en banc session.
“The action of the Court is to provide copies to both parties for them to comment. As for the decision, there is none yet,” he added.
Robredo welcomed the Supreme Court’s order to release the report, saying she expects it would eventually lead to the dismissal of the case because Marcos has not made any “substantial recovery.”
Marcos’ lawyer, Vic Rodriguez, said his client was surprised by the decision, adding the election protest has been languishing in court for more than three years.
Marcos later yesterday told reporters that through electoral cheating, “they robbed the proper Vice President, myself, of three years of service.”
Robredo taunted Marcos, saying that between the two of them, she is not the one who has a “record of robbing,” apparently referring to the ill-gotten wealth cases filed against Marcos’ father, former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Robredo won the vice presidency by about 280,000 votes over Marcos.
Hosaka said the tribunal also required the Robredo and Marcos camps to submit their memoranda on “various issues relating to the jurisdiction and other matters” in connection with a third cause of action in Marcos’ electoral protest.
The third cause of action in Marcos’ protest is the annulment of election results for the vice presidential position in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan, on the ground of alleged terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters, pre-shading of ballots, and vote substitution in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts in the areas.
Hosaka said the tribunal gave both parties 20 days to file their comment to the committee report and memoranda to the third cause of action.
Marcos’ electoral protest cites three causes of action. First, that the automated elections system was compromised, hence, the integrity of the AES cannot be relied upon to declare a legitimate winner. The tribunal has dismissed the first cause for being “meaningless and pointless.”
The second cause requires the revision or manual recount of the actual ballots to determine the votes cast in all the 36,465 protested clustered precincts.
Hosaka said 11 justices voted. Two dissented — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the justice assigned to handle the election protest.
Justice Jose Reyes Jr. is out of the country on official business.
Hosaka could not give the reason for the dissent of Carpio and Caguioa.
“I was not told the basis of their dissent,” he said.
Insiders said Carpio dissented because he believes the electoral protest should have been dismissed since Marcos failed to make substantial recovery in the three pilot provinces that he earlier said he could prove that cheating and other irregularities marred the conduct of the 2016 elections.
The tribunal has twice deferred deliberations on the case — last October 1 and 8 — despite the fact that Caguioa last month submitted the report on the recount in the three pilot provinces.
His report covers results of the revision and recount of ballots in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental, and Camarines Sur involving 5,415 precincts.
The outcome of the revision and recount of ballots in the three pilot provinces would determine if PET will proceed in the vote revision on 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities identified in Marcos election protest.
On Monday, Robredo asked the tribunal to follow Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules which entails judicial recount, revision, and appreciation of votes cast in Marcos’ pilot provinces.
Robredo argued that Rule 65 would result in the dismissal of Marcos’ electoral case if, after the initial determination in the three pilot provinces, the latter is unable to show substantial recovery in his favor.
She also stressed that Marcos’ third of cause of action in his protest should not take precedence over Rule 65 which states that results from the three pilot provinces should be examined first.
Robredo, at a press conference, said there is no other acceptable outcome but the dismissal of the case with Rule 65.
Robredo also said that while she is “half-relieved” that the report will be made public, she was “frustrated” that the case is not yet dismissed because we really believe that “there is no other way but to dismiss this, considering their own rules, and considering the results of the recount.”
On Marcos’ statement he was “robbed” of the position, Robredo said, “Parang nakakatawa naman na siya iyong nagsasabi noon. Kasi between the two of us, parang hindi yata ako ang may ugaling mag-rob. Between the two of us, lahat ng na-achieve ko pinagpaguran ko (It’s ridiculous for him to say that because between the two of us, I don’t think I’m the one who has a penchant for robbing. Between the two of us, everything I’ve achieved, I’ve worked hard for).”
“Wala akong fake diplomas. Wala akong anything. Hindi ako naglalabas ng fake news… Parang dapat… dapat hindi niya kaya iyon sabihin kasi between the two of us, alam ko hindi ako iyong robber (I don’t have fake diplomas, I don’t have anything. I don’t release fake news. He should not say that because between the two of us, I know I’m not the robber),” she added.
Robredo slammed Marcos for calling for the recount of votes from additional provinces (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan), saying he should have chosen the three ARMM provinces over Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental when he demanded a recount.
“Ngayong wala siya doong nakuha, gusto na naman niyang maghanap sa iba. Sa akin lang, alam naman namin na kahit saan siya maghanap, wala pa din siyang mahahanap (Now that he has failed to get more votes, he is looking for other areas. I don’t think he will ever find it wherever he looks),” she said.
The mere fact that the case has been dragging on for so long gives Marcos an opportunity to engage in propaganda and spread lies against her, Robredo also said.
The Senate minority bloc condemned the PET’s move not to dismiss outright the electoral protest and said the resolution favored Marcos.
In a statement, minority leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros said since the recount in the three pilot provinces did not yield his desired result, the PET should no longer proceed with tackling his plea to nullify the results in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao.
“Tantanan na ang kasinungalingan. Tanggapin na ang katotohanang si Leni Robredo ang Pangalawang Pangulo ng bansa (Enough with the lies. Just accept the truth that Leni Robredo is the Vice President of the country),” the statement read.
The minority argued this was in violation of Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules, which provides that if the recount in the pilot provinces did not show any anomaly, “the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.” – With Vince Nonato