SC won’t rule yet on VP election protest case
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has opted to release the findings of the initial recount of votes for Vice President Leni Robredo and losing candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as it again deferred ruling on whether to dismiss or proceed with Marcos’ election protest.
At the weekly full-court deliberation on Tuesday, 11 of 13 magistrates (one was on leave), including retiring Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, voted to release to the parties the Sept. 9 report on the recount done in the three test provinces handpicked by Marcos.
Two magistrates — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, who prepared the report as the justice in charge of the case — dissented.
According to insiders, Carpio and Caguioa held that the election protest “should have been dismissed since Marcos failed to make a substantial recovery” from Robredo’s votes in the three test provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur during the two-year-long vote revision and recount process.
Comment of parties
Voting 11-2, the court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), instead required both camps to comment on the recount results within 20 days.
The court also ordered both camps to comment within 20 days on Marcos’ petition to annul the vice-presidential election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao provinces for alleged irregularities.
Robredo and Marcos were told to respond to “various issues relating to the jurisdiction and other matters” if the court were to grant Marcos’ petition to set aside the results in the three provinces.
Robredo had objected to Marcos’ petition to annul the votes from the three provinces, arguing that the rules for the test recount should cover only three provinces.
Robredo, who edged Marcos by 263,473 votes in the six-field vice-presidential race, garnered a total of 477,985 votes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao. Marcos got 169,160 votes.
She had apparently anticipated that the test recount went in her favor since she asked the tribunal on Monday to uphold its own rules and dismiss the election protest if Marcos failed to show a deviation from the official results in the vote recount in his three chosen pilot provinces.
If Marcos were able to prove his claim of widespread irregularities in the test recount, the court may order the continuation of the recount in the 21 provinces, five cities and one district in Northern Samar that Marcos also contested.
“The action of the court is to provide copies to the parties and for the parties to comment on the results of the revision and appreciation of ballots. So as for the decision, there’s none yet,” Supreme Court public information chief Brian Hosaka told reporters.
Hosaka said he himself had not seen the report on the recount findings that was submitted by Caguioa.
Marcos’ lawyer Vic Rodriguez said the court order was a “positive development because finally, for the first time after three years, we shall now deal with the issues on the annulment of the election results in the province of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.”
Rodriguez added the Marcos camp was glad that the tribunal dismissed Robredo’s petition to dismiss outright the election protest based on the initial recount.
‘Victory’ for Robredo
Robredo’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal told reporters that they considered the decision a victory since they could now show through Caguioa’s report that Marcos had failed to get enough votes in the recount in Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur to overcome Robredo’s lead.
“We won. She won in the recount. Otherwise if she did not win in the recount, the resolution would have been different,” he said.
Macalintal accused Marcos of “fishing for evidence” after he failed to prove irregularities in the test recount.
“We will argue that the annulment of votes (in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao) should not be included anymore since he did not make a substantial recovery in the recount in the pilot provinces,” he said.
“He should not be allowed to fish for evidence. Under the rules, he should prove his case based on the pilot provinces,” he added.
In a press briefing in her office in Quezon City, Robredo expressed both relief and frustration over the continuing electoral protest.
“It’s very good news because the public will really know what really transpired in the recount … and who between us is telling the truth,” she said.
“But [I also feel] frustrated … because we believe that there is no other way but to dismiss this, considering their own rules and the result of the recount.”
Robredo’s camp had earlier manifested for the immediate resolution of the protest, saying that by their own records from the initial recount, she even gained 15,000 more votes, further widening the margin. —With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
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