Marcos vs Robredo: Who robbed what again?
“They robbed the proper Vice President, myself, of three years of service.” That was the brazen claim of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Against the backdrop of the Marcos regime’s world infamous track record on electoral fraud and corruption, the supreme irony wasn’t lost on Vice President Leni Robredo, who pushed back with a fiery statement: “Between the two of us, it’s not me who has a habit of robbing.”
At the heart of the ongoing travesty, which is the perennially pending and highly politicized threat to unseat a duly elected Vice President, is our unmitigated failure as a nation to come to terms with our past. The upshot is political uncertainty, undue strains on the judiciary, and social polarization in an already fragmented nation.
As the recently retired chief justice Lucas Bersamin admitted, “I wanted to delay the vote [on Marcos’ electoral complaint] because I did not like to take part in it.” Lamented the former chief magistrate with uncharacteristic transparency, underscoring the heavy load on the shoulders of the Supreme Court: “I did not like the public, like the media, speculating that I cooked or orchestrated the result.”
Even the business sector, troubled by slowing growth and falling foreign direct investments, is publicly worried about the political instability. The Makati Business Club, representing the top executives of the country, has called for the dismissal of the Marcos case for the benefit of “reducing the political and judicial uncertainty that came with it — uncertainty that manifests in risk premiums for those who would invest in Philippine jobs and industries.”
The plot to unseat Leni Robredo rests on curiously shaky foundations. First of all, let’s not forget that the final election survey showed that Robredo was the leading candidate heading into the 2016 elections. According to the (April 26-29, 2016) Pulse Asia survey, Robredo had a small edge (30-percent preference) over Bongbong Marcos (28-percent preference) days before the polls.
Moreover, the Marcos camp’s attack on the credibility and fairness of the last elections has also been dismissed not only by the highest court of the country, but also by the overwhelming majority of the Filipino people. A Social Weather Stations survey released in August 2019 said that 80 percent of Filipinos were “satisfied” with the conduct of the elections, and 86 percent said the polls’ results were “believable.” Only 12 percent disagreed.
The surreal irony of the ongoing Robredo vs. Marcos tragicomedy gained further poignancy when the pilot recount in Negros Oriental, Iloilo and Camarines Sur actually “increased” Robredo’s lead by as many as 15,000 votes. As Rule 65 of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) states, if an electoral fraud allegation failed to show substantial increase for the losing party, “the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.”
In a plot twist, however, the Supreme Court, acting as the PET and packed by a Marcos-friendly president, kept Marcos’ legal offensive alive by entertaining its petition for nullification of election results in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao in former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Marcos was naturally ecstatic, saying he was “happy that the case continues. So the case lives and it continues.” He unsurprisingly called on everyone to “trust the wisdom of our justices,” many of whom were appointed by the very President who has repeatedly questioned the fitness and competence of the sitting Vice President.
However, even former ARMM chief Mujiv Hataman has called for the dismissal of the “baseless” electoral protest in the three said provinces. As he emphatically put it, “The people in the now-defunct ARMM… decisively elected Vice President Leni Robredo. She deserves to serve the people who gave her the mandate…”
So long as the case is alive, the son of the former Filipino strongman will remain in the political radar and will attempt to bolster his run for the highest office in 2022. Whether he can dislodge the current VP in time to enjoy the remainder of the term of the country’s second highest office is less likely.
As the Colombian literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez once observed, “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” When a nation pathetically fails to account for its leader’s Guinness-record levels of thievery and plunder, the past is bound to catch up with it with a vengeance. In any self-respecting democracy, world-class crooks would have been, at the very least, banned from political office altogether.
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