The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has dismissed the plea of Vice President Leni Robredo to junk the poll protest filed by her rival, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
In a resolution dated January 24, the PET rejected Robredo’s claims that the tribunal could not go ahead with the case for lack of jurisdiction and for being insufficient in form and substance.
Marcos lost to Robredo by just 263,473 votes in the May 2016 election the former senator claimed was marred by fraud.
Marcos cited alleged pre-shading of ballots, massive vote buying, script change in the transparency server that supposedly altered the results, pre-loaded secure digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning vote counting machines, and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes/undervotes for the position of vice president.
Robredo had asked the PET to dismiss the case, saying the grounds raised by Marcos could not be used for a poll protest and the allegations of cheating and vote buying are just a “series of wild accusations, guesses, and surmises.”
The PET disagreed.
“On the matter of the sufficiency of the protest, the same is already beyond dispute,” the resolution stated.
“With the issuance of the summons, the Tribunal has found the protest to be sufficient in form and substance. The protest contained narrations of ultimate facts on the alleged irregularities and anomalies in the contested clustered precincts, which the protestant needs to prove in due time,” the PET said.
“However, while the Tribunal finds the protest sufficient in form and substance, it must be emphasized that, as to the veracity of the protestant’s allegations, nothing yet has been proved. The Protest is only sufficient for the Tribunal to proceed and give the protestant the opportunity to prove his case in accordance with the 2010 PET Rules,” it added.
The tribunal also dismissed Robredo’s claim that Marcos improperly raised the authenticity and due execution of certificates of canvass (COCs), which were used as basis for tallying the votes for vice president.
For Robredo, the issue should have been raised in a pre-proclamation case filed before Congress acting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC).
“Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, in relation to Rule 13 of the 2010 PET Rules, provides that the Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all elections contests relating to the election, returns, and disqualifications of the President or Vice President of the Philippines,” the resolution stated.
“The phrase ‘election, returns and qualifications’ refers to all matters affecting the validity of the contestee’s title, which includes questions on the validity, authenticity and correctness of the COCs,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal, meanwhile, denied Marcos’ bid to set aside Robredo’s response to the poll protest for allegedly being filed out of time.
PET records showed Robredo received the summons and election protest on August 3, 2016, and not on August 2 as stated by the vice president in her response to the protest.
“Consequently, the protestee (Robredo) had until August 13, 2016 to file her answer; and considering that August 13, 2016 was a Saturday, the filing of verified answer and counter-protest on August 15, 2016 was timely because that was the next working day,” the tribunal said.
In a statement, Marcos’ legal spokesman Victor Rodriguez said the former senator was “pleased” with the development.
“We are hoping that with this resolution, there will be an end to all these delays and we can finally move forward,” Rodriguez said.
The former senator had already asked the PET to expedite the resolution of his election protest by setting a preliminary conference.
Marcos’ camp said the preliminary conference is important because it will set in motion the issues to be resolved, the list of witnesses and the evidence to be presented as well as the schedule of hearings and the revision of the ballots, in his protest.