Nation must move on  after VP protest case decided by PET

Published February 19, 2021, 12:47 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The Marcos-Robredo election protest case was finally decided last Tuesday, February 16. It has taken four years and eight months  for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), consisting of all members of the Supreme Court,   to decide the case which was filed on June 29, 2016, but it is the only  big protest  one to reach  the point of a final decision.

A previous protest case filed by Manuel Roxas against Jejomar Binay in the vice-presidential  election of 2010 was never actually decided when both decided to run for president in 2016. The PET  decided that  the  pending  case was no longer relevant and thus decided to dismiss the  Roxas  protest  as well as Binay’s counter-protest.

Ferdinand  Marcos Jr. stuck to his case to the very end.  Twenty-nine days after Leni Robredo was proclaimed  winner on June 29, 2016, with a narrow margin of 263,473 votes, he filed his protest case, claiming fraud and irregularities. The PET found the complaint sufficient in form and substance on January 24, 2017, and Marcos asked for vote recount  in Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental,  on June 16, 2017.

The PET began a manual recount on April 2, 2018. Eighteen  months later, on October 18, 2019, the recount was completed. The PET found that Robredo had even increased her lead  over  Marcos to 278,566. She asked that the protest be dismissed under the PET’s Rule 65, which  provides that if the initial recount shows no substantial recovery of votes for the protesting candidate,  the PET may dismiss a  protest case.

Marcos, however, filed a new petition asking for the annulment of election results in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan,  due to alleged terrorism, intimidation, and harassment of voters. The Marcos group said  the  protest case is not over as the PET still has to decide on this last petition.

The PET, however, issued a statement  at  5 p.m.  that it  had dismissed the Marcos  election protest “for lack of merit” and that the counter-election protest  filed  by Robredo  “is likewise dismissed.”

Vice President Robredo  welcomed the PET  decision, urging  everyone to set aside all rancor, join hands, and focus on the work ahead. The decision was commended  by  other officials as well as civic groups who said it confirms the  nation’s electoral process and strengthens the unity of the country, so important especially at his time when the country is struggling to recover  from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nation will be holding another election in May, 2002, this one to determine who will succeed President Duterte at the end of his six-year term. It would be  better for all concerned to focus their efforts on the coming contest, rather than carrying  on  with the old protest case  that the PET has, very decisively, declared over and done with.