By Jeffrey Damicog
The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has revealed that Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo gained even more votes in the recount of ballots for the 2016 vice presidential elections in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental.
In a resolution released Friday night, the PET said: “based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces, protestee (Robredo) maintained, as in fact, she increased, her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14, 157,771 votes.”
“After the revision and appreciation, the lead of protestee Robredo increased from 263,473 to 278,566,” the PET resolution read.
The PET conducted the recount based on the second cause of action out of three causes of action sought by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the electoral protest he filed against Robredo. Marcos chose the pilot provinces that will undergo a recount.
Despite the outcome, the Tribunal still required the parties to file their comments on the results as well as submit a memorandum “on the various issues relating to the jurisdiction and other matters relating to the third cause of action, which is the annulment of election results for Vice President in the provinces of Lanao Del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao…”
“Before the Tribunal proceeds to make a ruling on the effects of the results of the revision and appreciation of the votes for the pilot provinces on the Protestant’s Second Cause of Action as articulated in the Preliminary Conference Order, the Parties will be required to submit their position stating their factual and legal basis,” the PET ruled.
“Likewise, the Tribunal deems it essential to meet due process requirements to require protestant and protestee to now provide their position in relation to the Third Cause of Action also articulated in the Preliminary Conference Order,” it added.
However, Justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Antonio Carpio insisted in their respective dissenting opinions that the electoral protest of Marcos Jr. should be dismissed. Eleven justices voted against the dismissal of the case.
“The Protest should be dismissed for protestant’s failure to make out a case using his pilot provinces,” Caguioa said.
Caguioa, who has been assigned to handle the Marcos poll protest, said the action taken by the PET was “a refusal to apply the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET Rules) when no reason exists for exempting this Protest.”
Citing Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules, Caguioa said the rules provide that not more than three provinces “best exemplifying the frauds and irregularities” for the recount and, should the protestant fail to make out his case based on the examination of the ballots of the selected provinces, “the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.”
“Rule 65 is plain in its wording and no legal acrobatics are needed to decipher its meaning. It should be simply applied. It speaks of indicating three provinces ‘best exemplifying’ the frauds and irregularities alleged in the Protest, and the revision and appreciation of ballots and/or reception of evidence will begin with such provinces,” stated Caguioa who himself submitted before the PET the report on the results of the recount of the three pilot provinces.
He lamented that “the majority nonetheless refuses to strictly apply Rule 65.”
Likewise, Carpio pointed out that by not dismissing the poll protest the PET will be “violating its own Rules if it allows a revision and recount of ballots in other provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), beyond the maximum three provinces chosen by protestant.”
“Finally, for the Tribunal to allow a revision and recount of the protestant’s contested precincts in three ARMM provinces, exceeding the maximum three pilot provinces mandatorily prescribed in the 2010 PET Rules, is to change the rules of the PET in the middle of the proceedings just to accommodate protestant after he has failed to show a substantial recovery in the three pilot provinces he himself chose. The last thing that this Tribunal should do is to change its rules in midstream to accommodate a party who has failed to comply with what Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules expressly requires,” he stressed.