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SC junks Bongbong poll protest vs Robredo
Photo taken on March 14, 2016 shows vice presidential candidates Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Leni Robredo attending Go Negosyo’s ‘Meet The Vice Presidentiables’ forum at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.
Krizjohn Rosales

SC junks Bongbong poll protest vs Robredo

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2021 - 12:00am

Robredo: Victory of the people

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), yesterday affirmed the victory of Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential race as it dismissed the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka yesterday announced that the 15 members of the PET “unanimously” voted to dismiss the electoral protest filed by Marcos against Robredo in 2016.

“Today, Feb. 16, 2021, the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal unanimously dismissed the electoral protest filed by former senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo. This is in connection with Presidential Electoral Tribunal case titled: Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., protestant, versus Ma. Leonor “Leni Daang Matuwid” G. Robredo, protestee, PET Case No. 005,” Hosaka said.

At 5 p.m. yesterday, the PET clarified that it dismissed the election protest for “lack of merit” and that the counter-protest filed by Robredo “is likewise dismissed.”

“Out of the 15 members of the tribunal who were present in today’s meeting, seven members fully concurred with the dismissal, while eight concurred in the result,” he added.

Hosaka was unable to provide the names of the PET members who fully concurred with the dismissal and those who only concurred with the results since he has not yet been given a copy of the resolution that was penned by the members of the tribunal.

He also could not answer if Marcos could still appeal the dismissal of the electoral protest case.

He added that parties to the case would be given copies of the PET’s resolution.

On June 29, 2016, Marcos filed an election protest contesting the win of Robredo in the vice presidential race, and asked that her proclamation as vice president be nullified.

Based on the official tally of the National Board of Canvassers, Marcos lost by 263,473 votes to Robredo. During the 2016 elections, Robredo garnered 14,418,817 votes while Marcos got 14,155,344 votes.

In his 1,200-page petition, Marcos, in his First Cause of Action, questioned the integrity and reliability of the automated election system (AES) that was supplied by Smartmatic.

The SC dismissed Marcos’ First Cause of Action in 2017.

In the Second Cause of Action, the former senator raised the massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities in 39,221 clustered precincts located in several provinces of the country, citing that terrorism, violence and threats were rampant in these clustered precincts and that there were allegedly no actual elections that took place in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan.

In his protest, Marcos also named the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental as his pilot areas for the recount and revision of ballots. This covered 5,415 precincts.

In its Oct. 15, 2019 resolution, the PET said: “Thus, based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces, protestee Robredo maintained, as in fact she increased, her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,771 votes. After the revision and appreciation, the lead of protestee Robredo increased from 263,473 to 278,566.”

The first PET member-in-charge of the protest was Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa before the case was reportedly transferred to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

‘Victory of the Filipino people’

Following the SC announcement, Robredo said the decision was not just her victory but also that of the Filipino people.

“After almost five years, the truth prevailed, the real decision in the 2016 elections was upheld,” she said in Filipino during a press conference at her office in Quezon City early evening yesterday.

“This is not just my victory or of our team, this is our victory,” she added, her voice cracking at times.

The Vice President, who was joined by her legal team, thanked her lawyers one by one as well as her revisors. She also expressed gratitude to members of her staff, whom she said did not hesitate to give their 100 percent at work despite all the vilifications against her.

She also thanked the PET “for their fairness.”

“From the beginning, I always say, and our staff at OVP can attest to this, that in the end, the truth will prevail. We believe in the legitimacy of our election, we believe in the process, we believe in the integrity of the magistrates. We are very happy and grateful that this trust is affirmed,” Robredo said.

“The affirmation that we received from the PET… will allow us to focus more on the more important work of serving our people,” she added.

Robredo’s camp has yet to receive a copy of the PET resolution.

Meanwhile, the Vice President called on Filipinos to set aside their differences and work together to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now that this issue has been definitely settled, what I’m asking everyone, especially our supporters, is to put this rancor behind us and let us move forward together,” she said.

“Let us join hands and let us unify. Let us focus on the work in front of us,” she added.

During the press conference, which was her first during the pandemic, Robredo was asked about her comment on President Duterte’s remark that she is unfit to be president and her plans for 2022.

“(Duterte is) not the one to decide whether or not I’m qualified, it’s the Filipino people,” Robredo said.

She added that she would not defend herself against the President’s attacks, but stressed that the pandemic has shown that countries with “leaders who listen, who consult and who know how to accept their flaws,” have the best response to the pandemic.

For the Vice President, it is wrong to think about the 2022 elections as many Filipinos face hardships brought by the pandemic.

Ruling welcomed

Senators from the Liberal Party welcomed the PET ruling as it disproved once and for all allegations of cheating against Robredo.

“I, together with the more than 14 million Filipinos who voted for Vice President Leni Robredo in 2016, are pleased with the favorable decision of the PET,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.

The PET decision should put the issue to rest, according to Drilon, as he enjoined all parties involved to respect the decision.

“Let us begin the healing process now and focus on what is before us – the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also welcomed the decision, although he wished the case would have been resolved much sooner “because it affirms what we have been saying from Day 1, which is that the allegations of cheating in the process was baseless.”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros likewise welcomed the PET decision.

“It’s a good thing, this issue has been resolved,” Hontiveros said in Filipino.

“We respect the decision of the (PET) because they fulfilled their mandate without bias and according to the evidence presented to them,” she added.

Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of the defeated vice presidential candidate, declined to issue any comment, saying she has not yet spoken with her younger brother.

Lawmakers at the House of Representatives also welcomed the decision.

“The unanimity of the decision speaks volumes and should put to rest any doubts as regards her victory in the May 2016 elections,” Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said.

Members of the six-man Makabayan bloc also lauded the ruling.

“It is high time that this issue be put to rest as the next elections is just almost a year away. This is also a welcome decision so that VP Robredo can concentrate more on her work and not be pestered by pretenders to the vice presidency,” Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

Zarate also took the opportunity to take a swipe at chief government counsel Jose Calida who intervened, not in behalf of Robredo, but in support of the electoral protest filed by Marcos.

“The PET decision clearly is also a big legal slap on the Solicitor General who intervened in support of Marcos, who is clearly a private party! This development is significant, especially now that the Filipino people are pushing back yet again against tyranny,” Zarate said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago also welcomed the PET decision, as it finally puts the issue to rest.

“Kabataan continues to stand in solidarity with the Office of the Vice President (OVP) as we fight for the rights and welfare of the youth, safe and quality education and community learning spaces amid the pandemic,” Elago said in a statement.

“We commend the OVP for its ongoing relief efforts in calamity-hit areas as well as its firm stand against extrajudicial killings and for the protection and promotion of human rights,” she added.

Business group Makati Business Club (MBC) welcomed the PET decision, emphasizing that such a move is seen to put to rest political uncertainty and promote concerted effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the MBC said it lauds the move of the SC to settle the 2016 vice presidential election dispute.

“The decision removes a major source of unnecessary and damaging political uncertainty, confirms our electoral process, strengthens the unity we need to win the war against COVID-19 and accelerate the jobs and economic recovery needed by our people,” the group said. – Helen Flores, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Louella Desiderio

BONGBONG MARCOS LENI ROBREDO
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