Weaponizing the rule of law
Permit me, Reader, to comment on two recent events that I passed up because of my concern for the University of the Philippines.
The first is the Robredo-Marcos election case before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the PET, which is the entire Supreme Court). Two members, Antonio Carpio and Benjamin Caguioa, were of the opinion that Bongbong Marcos’ case against Leni Robredo should be dismissed forthwith, because of (quoting Caguioa) “protestant’s failure to make out a case using his pilot provinces.”
The (PET) Rule #65 is quite simple. The protestant (Marcos), gets to choose at most three provinces which best exemplify the frauds or irregularities he alleges. These provinces constitute the “test cases” by which the PET will make a determination as to whether it would proceed with the protest— that is, revise (recount) the ballots for all the remaining protested clustered precincts—or simply dismiss the protest for failure of the protestant to make out his case. This concept of test cases or pilot provinces is used in ALL election protests, whether it is before the lower courts, or the Commission on Elections, or the House or Senate Electoral Tribunals.
Marcos chose the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental. Understand, Reader, he could have chosen Lanao, or Sulu or any other province. It was his call. So what happened? According to Caguioa, the PET spent “countless hours” looking at every ballot box in the 5,415 precincts involved in these three provinces, and revising millions (1.7) of ballots.
What was the result? We all know it, Reader. Instead of the revised ballots giving Marcos a substantial number of additional votes, thus proving his allegations, the results ADDED 15,000 to Robredo’s votes. Marcos clearly did not make out his case. These provinces gave no basis for the PET to go on with other areas.
The majority of the PET/Supreme Court, instead of dismissing this case outright, in its Oct. 15 decision, “directs the parties to comment on the results, and to submit their respective memoranda on the effect of the results on protestant’s second and third causes of action, the Tribunal’s jurisdiction over the third cause of action, and assuming it has jurisdiction, the threshold of evidence for the third cause of action, and other issues on how the Tribunal should act on the third cause of action.”
The majority puts forward questions the answers to which are already obvious.
But in so doing, it ignores another PET rule, that “[t]he Rules shall be liberally construed to achieve a just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every contest before the Tribunal.” Just? Expeditious? Inexpensive? Completely ignored.
The rule of law being weaponized. The gap between law and justice yawning ever larger.
The second event is President Duterte’s offer/challenge to Vice President Robredo: “I will give you all the powers for six months to clean up the drug problem.” Mr. Duterte’s offer was characterized as a “kind gesture” by the Palace. And characterized as a “trap” by her supporters.
My view: The President, with all his powers, has admitted that he failed to solve the drug problem within the six months that he had promised the Filipino people during the election campaign. It has been three years, and there is no end in sight. So the six months he is giving Robredo may be construed as admission that she is better than him, since he thinks she may be able to do in six months what he failed to do in more than three years.
But he certainly wouldn’t admit to that, so the alternative is to put her in a position where she will surely fail. Why do I say that? Because way before Mr. Duterte’s time, Thailand’s prime minister in the early 2000s promised the same thing to his constituents. Thailand, 19 years later, still has a drug problem.
However, may I point out to the President that all his predecessors gave their vice presidents, opposition or not, responsibilities befitting their office. The President should do the same, for the sake of the Filipino people, to assure that in case of a vacancy, the Vice President is within the loop (at least knows what is happening, through Cabinet meetings), and can take over with minimum adjustment problems. Never has that factor been so important as today.
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