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Editorial

Suspicious dilly-dallying

/ 04:35 AM October 18, 2019

It’s bad enough that the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) sat on its hands yet again in the matter of the election protest lodged by Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo. What truly gets the goat is the effrontery of the dictator’s son and namesake in declaring that, as a purported victim of massive cheating in the May 2016 elections, he has been robbed of three years of the vice presidency. Robbed? Him? Look who’s talking.

But the PET continues to unsettle the body politic by once more failing to issue a ruling on Marcos’ election protest, which he lodged on June 29, 2016, or more than three years ago. At its latest full-court meeting on Oct. 15, 11 of 13 justices voted to release to the contending camps the report on the recount of ballots conducted in three pilot provinces, and directed them to submit their respective comments within 20 days. Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Benjamin Caguioa dissented.

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That report prepared by Caguioa was submitted to the PET during its Sept. 10 full-court session. One would expect that, time having so relentlessly flown, the justices would have forthwith taken it up and settled the matter with dispatch. But no. The report was all but ignored and deliberation was rescheduled for Oct. 8, and consequently, inexplicably, reset for Oct. 15.

In these parts where plunderers and academic frauds think nothing of seeking seats in the Senate, and winning, was it unreasonable for the suspicion to arise that something no good was afoot? Earlier this month, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections demanded that the PET issue a “compelling and convincing reason” for the delay in ruling on the case, in effect giving voice to the suspicion. What, after all, the increasingly annoyed observer would ask, were the PET’s grounds for taking its sweet time on the matter? And particularly so when, as stated in the Caguioa report, the recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental—the three provinces named by Marcos himself as “best exemplif[ying]” the supposed cheating that occurred—showed no recovered votes for him but, instead, an increase of about 15,000 more in the number of Robredo’s own (which amounted to more than 260,000 over his)?

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Marcos had cited three causes of action in his complaint. The PET deemed the first—that the automated elections system was compromised and therefore was no ground for the declaration of a legitimate winner—“meaningless and pointless,” and threw it out. The second was the recount of ballots to determine the votes cast in the three pilot provinces, the results of which were presented in the Caguioa report. The third was the annulment of election results for the vice presidency in the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao because of the alleged terrorism, harassment and intimidation of voters, and the purported pre-shading of ballots in certain polling precincts, on which the PET, in its session on Oct. 15, also directed the contending camps to comment.

As though to illustrate the mounting public impatience over the PET ruling that has been so long in coming, the Makati Business Club (MBC) has seen fit to issue a statement expressing its “hope” that the release of the Caguioa report would lead to the dismissal of Marcos’ protest case and the easing of “the political and judicial uncertainty that came with it.” It’s now the business community remarking on the glacial pace of the case and the urgent necessity of rejecting Marcos’ suit so that, as the MBC said, the Supreme Court and the Office of the Vice President could “focus on pressing issues with great impact on the wellbeing of the Filipino people.”

Quite right. It’s time the PET put an end to Marcos’ persistence in getting within a heartbeat of the presidency through his dogged claim of being robbed, if not in his three pilot provinces, then in Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao. There is, after all, Rule 65 of the PET Rules, which states that if the results of the recount in the pilot provinces show no substantial recovery of votes, then the case may be dismissed “without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.”

Marcos’ camp says that the increase in the number of Robredo’s votes proves that there were indeed irregularities in the May 2016 elections. Oh? Is it also saying that with the same machinery and the same ballots, the election of Rodrigo Duterte, the Marcos family’s friend and patron, is likewise highly suspect?

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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Presidential Electoral Tribunal, Supreme Court, Vice President Leni Robredo
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