SC upholds integrity of 2016 polls, orders ballot boxes retrieved

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
SC upholds integrity of 2016 polls, orders ballot boxes retrieved

Vice President was received by parents, teachers, and students at the Antipolo City Federation of Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) Day held at the Bagong Nayon IV Elementary School in Brgy. San Isidro, Antipolo City last July 8, 2017. OVP/Released, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has upheld the integrity of the 2016 elections, which former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. questioned in his poll protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The PET, however, ordered the retrieval of all the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia in three provinces that Marcos wants included in a pilot recount.

In a resolution dated Aug. 29. 2017, the PET said that allowing the first cause of action of Marcos questioning the authenticity of the results of last year’s vote would be “an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect.”

The PET added that it could not allow the first cause of action to take its course because of the amount of resources and time it would entail.

“Thus, the First Cause of Action may be dispensed with for judicial economy and prompt disposition of this case,” the PET said.

“We are happy that a resolution was issued by the Supreme Court denying or dismissing Mr. Marcos’ first cause of action,” Romulo Macalintal, Robredo’s lead counsel in the case, said in a media briefing.

Marcos, the son of the ousted Philippine dictator accused of committing massive human rights violations and corruption during his more than two decades in office and died in exile in Hawaii, has accused Robredo of cheating her way to the second highest office in the land.

Robredo defeated Marcos by a margin of a little more than 200,000 votes, and a late modification of computer script lit allegations that the erstwhile administration which supported the vice president was altering the program to favor the former representative of Camarines Sur.

Marcos said that irregularities attended the election in many provinces, and listed three pilot provinces for recount which allegedly would show the merits of his protest.

Marcos originally wanted a reopening of ballot boxes in 22 provinces and three urban areas. These locations have a total of more 36,000 clustered precincts.

Ballot boxes for Camarines Sur, Iloilo, Negros Oriental to be retrieved

According to the PET: “Thus in consonance with Rule 65, the Tribunal hereby orders that the retrieval of ballot boxes and other election documents, revision of ballots and reception of evidence can already begin with, but shall first be confined to, only the provinces that have been designated by protestant, namely Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.”

In addition, the PET also granted the motion of Marcos to decrypt and print the ballot images from the SD cards from the three pilot areas, according to the camp of Marcos.

George Garcia, lawyer for Marcos, admitted in the past that even if the PET grants the first cause of action, this would not necessarily mean that the son of the late dictator would automatically be proclaimed as the vice president, a point noted by the PET resolution.

“Even if protestant succeeds in proving his First Cause of Cation, this will not mean that he has already won the position of vice president as this can only be determined by a manual recount of all votes in all precincts,” the resolution stated.

Marcos has two more causes of action.

For the second cause of action, Marcos is praying for the manual recount of the actual ballots. The former senator is also asking the PET to annul the election results in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur and Basilan because of the alleged occurrence of more “traditional” modes of cheating in these areas in his third cause of action.

Macalintal also asked the PET to require the former senator to deposit P2 billion to cover the cost of retaining the custody of 92,509 vote-counting machines and other equipment while his protest was ongoing.

In an urgent manifestation and motion, Macalintal said that Marcos had filed various manifestations asking the tribunal to direct the COMELEC to retain the custody of the machines because he would subject them to “technical examination, forensic investigation, verification and analysis.”

The PET granted this and issued a Precautionary Protection Order on June 12, 2016 asking the Elections Commission to safeguard the equipment, according to Macalintal.

“Thus, we asked the PET to immediately resolve our earlier and pending clarification whether Marcos should be held liable for the P2 Billion cost of the retention of said VCMs by the Comelec or a resolution be issued directing Marcos to deposit the said amount”, Macalintal said.

Victor Rodriguez, a spokesman for Marcos, said that they would respect the PET’s decision for the sake of “expediency.”

“We respect the Tribunal’s decision and we will abide by it. We are glad that the Tribunal share in our desire to expedite the disposition of this case the soonest possible time in interest of all the Filipino people especially those whose votes were not counted,” he said.

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