PET seen to junk Mar’s 2010 protest vs Binay

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

BAGUIO City, Philippines – Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II has lost his election protest against Vice President Jejomar Binay in their 2010 vice presidential contest.

An insider said the Supreme Court (SC), which sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) in resolving election cases involving presidential and vice presidential candidates, is expected to dismiss Roxas’ petition.

The SC failed to resolve the case in its session last Tuesday, or less than a month before the May 9 elections where Roxas and Binay will once again face off – this time for the presidency.

“That’s moot already,” the insider explained, referring to the status of the case.

The source, however, would not reveal when the PET would convene to formally dismiss the petition.

The insider, a member of the tribunal who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak for the high court, only confirmed the ruling would effectively uphold the election of Binay as vice president.

The source further told The STAR the dismissal of Roxas’ protest would be “inevitable” since the tribunal has failed to resolve it based on merits.

The insider cited previous cases of protests dismissed by the PET after filers of the cases ran for elective posts in succeeding polls.

Another insider confirmed that the protest is most likely to be junked based on technicality, citing PET rules.

“Theoretically, it (protest) can be considered moot upon filing of COC (certificate of candidacy) by the protestant (Roxas),” the source explained.

The PET will not be able to resolve the case based on merits until after the upcoming elections since the high tribunal will start its recess next week and resume session after the May polls, according to the source.

The PET last acted on the case in October last year when it took note of Binay’s motion to dismiss the protest due to abandonment by Roxas of the case.

Binay argued that Roxas appeared to be no longer interested in pursuing the case after he failed to pay the required filing fee of P166,635,000.

The tribunal also cited Roxas’ inaction on his earlier plea for forensic examination and random manual audit of the ballots – an undertaking the Binay camp branded as a “self-serving fishing expedition” not provided under PET rules.

Binay’s lawyers pointed out that it has been five years since Roxas sought the conduct of forensic examination during preliminary conference on the case. Roxas, now the Liberal Party standard bearer, has not even filed a motion for resolution of his plea.

To bolster their position, Binay’s lawyers cited relevant rulings – SC’s Ortega vs De Guzman, Senate Electoral Tribunal in Firdausi Abbas vs Heherson Alvarez et al, and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in Guades v. Uy – where all poll protests were dismissed on the ground of inaction or failure of the filers to pursue the cases.

The last time PET acted on the case was in December 2012 when it granted a request of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use 75 percent of the ballot boxes containing votes under protest by Roxas for this year’s elections to save the government more than P160 million.

Binay’s camp had asked the PET to junk the protest for lack of merit and for being invalid. But the tribunal has not acted on the Binay camp’s plea.

In his protest filed in July 2010, Roxas alleged that election results used for Binay’s proclamation did not reflect actual votes due to what he described as “anomalously high incidence” of null and misread votes in the certificates of canvass in all precincts nationwide especially in his bailiwicks, Regions 6, 7 and Caraga.

Roxas claimed he should have won the election if only the Comelec had counted the null votes, which supposedly largely belonged to him and would have made him overtake the final 727,084-vote advantage of Binay.

But Binay, in his answer, said his camp has documented null votes in the automated polls and found that they were the lowest compared to the 2004 and 2007 polls.

The Vice President also argued the results of the Comelec canvass were consistent with survey results.

Results of random manual audit conducted by election watchdogs have shown 99.6 percent accuracy rate of the poll results in 2010.

The Binay camp also dismissed as “baseless” allegations of Roxas that fraud and irregularities, including statistical improbabilities in certain clustered precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, had characterized the conduct of the polls.

In a counter-protest against Roxas, Binay contested results in over 40,000 precincts in Regions 6, 7 and Caraga due to irregularities, including alleged use of illegal ballots and failure to use Comelec stamps.

The PET started hearing the protest and counter-protest in September 2010 with retired SC justice Bernardo Pardo designated as hearing commissioner.  

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