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Time running out on Marcos protest

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has released the report on the recount of votes in the pilot provinces chosen by Bongbong Marcos. This paves the way for debunking in the public mind Marcos’ claim of election fraud. The public will now be officially apprised that Vice President Leni Robredo’s lead over Marcos has actually increased by 15,000 votes in the manual recount.

The statement of recently retired chief justice Lucas Bersamin that he wanted to postpone the PET vote because he did not want to be seen as having “cooked” the results says volumes about the importance the climate of opinion serves as context for decision. Which is why it puzzles me how Marcos has been so curiously laid back as a protesting vice-president wannabe. Over the past three years, he could have marshaled public opinion around his quest. It would have enabled the Supreme Court — assuming that it was willing to take such a deceitful enterprise — to “cook” a Marcos victory outcome in the election protest.

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Marcos has not shown any need to show he is a deserving potential vice president. Perhaps this is a reflection of the limits of his character and abilities. He is on record as having filed 52 bills as senator in the 16th Congress, only one of which became law — the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections. Yet of the most important bills in that period, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), languished in the Senate local government committee that he chaired. At one time, when media asked about the status of the bill, he quipped it was not dead, only in a “coma.” It seems his supporters are pained by this paltry legislative record that they had resorted to inventing and circulating fake news on Facebook that Marcos is the “original” author of the Free Higher Education for All Act passed in August 2017.

Indeed, crisis after crisis has passed the Filipinos by, and this presumptuous vice-president wannabe has not even given any prominently public comment on any of them — not the rice crisis, the African swine fever, the good conduct time allowance mess, the “ninja cops” scandal, the health crisis or the transport crisis. The only crisis he has apparently shown interest in has been his personal crisis of ambition in his attempt to dislodge the Vice President.

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In contrast, Robredo has spoken with courage, integrity and wisdom on all of these issues, coming out with statesman-like positions aligned with constitutional and democratic principles. This contrast should give pause to any magisterial culinary enterprise as a supreme hurtful disservice to the Filipino people.

As if alleging fraud is not enough, Marcos in his third cause of action is trying to nullify the votes for vice president in three provinces — Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan. He is adding insult to injury. He wants to benefit from the nullification of the results of the election in these provinces, which went clearly the way of Robredo. No mysterious fraud dynamics involved here — the nonappearance of Marcos in these areas during the 2016 elections, his inaction on the BOL and the lingering hurt suffered by Mindanaoans under martial law translated into a resounding loss for Marcos there, according to Muslim leaders who have come vigorously to the defense of Robredo.

The electoral protest of Marcos should be dismissed altogether, but there is an outside chance the PET will assume jurisdiction over Marcos’ third cause of action. This will certainly be pushing the envelope into politically risky territory.

But even if the Supreme Court arrogates unto itself the legal jurisdiction of deciding on Marcos’ third cause of action and declares a failure of election in the three provinces, an action that is unprecedented, the Supreme Court cannot simply deduct the votes in these provinces from the total votes obtained by Marcos and Robredo. A special election will still have to be held to enable the voters in these provinces to exercise their right to vote. Declaring a failure of election cannot be done only for the vice presidential position, it will have to be declared for all elective positions in the 2016 elections. It would be absurd that the votes for president, senators and local officials in the three provinces will be upheld, while the votes for vice president will be nullified.

If Mr. Duterte really believed in the competencies of Marcos for the vice presidency or the presidency, he should have given him over the past three years, even just as a public relations stunt, some top Cabinet position to show his mettle. Perhaps Mr. Duterte sensed this might just prove the opposite.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, leni robredo, Lucas Bersamin, On The Move, pet, Presidential Electoral Tribunal, Segundo Eclar Romero, vice presidential electoral tribunal
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