The camps of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo will face each other before the Supreme Court today for the preliminary hearing of a poll protest that stemmed from the result of the vice presidential race in last year’s elections. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV, File

Leni, Bongbong face off at SC today
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 10, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - The camps of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo will face each other before the Supreme Court (SC) today for the preliminary hearing of a poll protest that stemmed from the result of the vice presidential race in last year’s elections.

Marcos’ supporters gathered outside the SC compound for an overnight vigil yesterday and called for an immediate resolution of the protest filed by the former senator.

Marcos was expected to join the group by 10 last night.

The SC, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), originally set the preliminary conference on Marcos’ poll protest and Robredo’s counter-protest on June 21.

The high tribunal reset the date to July 11 to give way for the oral arguments and resolution of petitions filed against President Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.

During the preliminary conference, parties in an electoral protest lay down the issues to be tackled and resolved by the tribunal.

The SC, composed of the same 15 justices, decided to set one preliminary conference for both the protest and counter-protest, citing Rule 3 of the 2010 PET Rules, which allows adjustment in the rules to “achieve a just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every contest before the tribunal.”

The PET scheduled the hearing upon Marcos’ request, after it denied the motion of Robredo questioning the cash bonds set by the tribunal for the protest and counter-protest.

Marcos has repeatedly pleaded for the immediate conduct of the proceedings and resolution of the case. Earlier, he filed several motions seeking immediate resolution of his election protest.

Fishing for evidence

The Robredo camp is ready to prove that Marcos is “merely fishing for evidence” to back his poll protest against her.

“We are ready and confident to prove today that Marcos’ protest should be dismissed since his preliminary conference brief contains the same allegations in his protest where he is clearly and merely fishing for evidence,” Robredo’s counsel Romulo Macalintal said in a statement.

Macalintal said Marcos would only prolong his protest as he is questioning the integrity and competence of the 2016 Automated Election System (AES).

“Before we could go into the revision of ballots or annulment of the results of election, he has first to prove his allegation that the AES did not comply with the law and that it is null and void,” he said.

The other causes of action such as recount of ballots or technical examination of election documents, Macalintal said, could not proceed yet unless the issue on the integrity of the AES is resolved.

He said the 3.2 million documents involving 647,000 ballots and similar number of voter receipts, ballot images and names of voters would also prolong the proceedings.

“We will also raise the fact that what Marcos wants is to declare failure of election as he is contesting all the 18 million ballots in 30 provinces and highly urbanized cities,” he said.

During the conference, issues would be simplified while the number of witnesses would be limited to expedite the process.

The manner of retrieval of ballot boxes containing the ballots, election returns, certificates of canvass and other election documents involved in the election protest would also be tackled.

Marcos has asked the tribunal to designate hearing commissioners ahead of the hearing to expedite the proceedings.

He also sought to hasten the decryption of ballot images from the clustered precincts of 30 contested provinces subject of his poll protest.

The PET earlier required Marcos and Robredo to pay cash deposits of P66 million and P15.44 million for their protest and counter-protest, respectively.

Marcos filed the poll protest on June 29 last year, claiming the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls.

He sought annulment of about a million votes cast in three provinces – Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results in a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities.

Robredo filed her answer in August, along with a counter-protest questioning the results in over 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

She sought the dismissal of the poll protest, citing lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.

The high tribunal, in a ruling issued early this year, dismissed Robredo’s plea and proceeded with the case after finding sufficiency in form and substance in the protest.

Robredo won the vice presidential race by a slim margin of 263,473 votes over Marcos, who got 14,155,344 votes. 

She got 14,418,817 votes. – With Helen Flores

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