Trumpian | Inquirer Opinion


/ 04:06 AM November 10, 2020

As defeated US President Donald Trump cried cheating in the cliffhanger US race, not a few observers in these parts noted with amusement how it mirrored Philippine politics where no one loses an election. And one case came to mind: The long-drawn-out protest of losing 2016 vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo. Marcos’ protest, which should have been dismissed as early as October last year, was again recently in the news after Solicitor General Jose Calida gave it another boost.

Last month, the OSG submitted its opinion echoing the Marcos protest, stating that the Presidential Electoral Tribunal has the power to annul or declare a failure of elections, in this case in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan which Marcos wants excluded so he could overcome Robredo’s lead. Moreover, said the OSG, there would be no problem if the PET annulled the elections in the three provinces since the outcome would not result to a “failure to elect.’’

“On the contrary, the ultimate winner, or the one with the majority (or plurality) of the valid votes cast, is easily determinable,’’ said the OSG.


This opinion is certainly music to Marcos’ ears. In his so-called third cause of action, Marcos sought to annul the votes in these three provinces ostensibly due to terrorism, intimidation, and harassment of voters and the pre-shading of ballots. If these results were excluded, Robredo would lose the 477,985 votes she got, allowing Marcos to overcome her overall lead of 263,473 votes.


Robredo’s camp has dismissed this as a desperate attempt to save Marcos’ “dying protest’’ after the PET dismissed his first two causes of action. In September 2017, the PET junked Marcos’ first cause of action seeking to declare as inauthentic all certificates of canvass used to proclaim Robredo—the same ones used to proclaim the winner for president, Rodrigo Duterte. The PET declared such “surgical annulment’’ as an “exercise in futility.’’

Marcos filed a second cause of action seeking a recount in three pilot provinces of his own choosing where he could best prove his allegations and show substantial recovery to require a wider recount. The son of the late dictator chose Robredo and the Liberal Party’s bailiwicks Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental, and Iloilo, but the recount — much to his chagrin — even resulted in Robredo widening her lead by 15,093 votes.


Having failed to prove his allegations of fraud, Marcos’ protest should have been altogether dismissed, per Rule 65 of the PET: “If upon examination of such ballots and proof and after making reasonable allowances, the Tribunal is convinced that, taking all circumstances into account, the protestant or counter-protestant will most probably fail to make out his case, the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.”

But in a ruling in September this year, the PET, composed of the justices of the Supreme Court, ignored its own rules. Instead of dismissing the case, it sought comments on the dismissal of the second cause of action. It also asked the Commission on Elections and the OSG to comment on Marcos’ third cause of action, which is the annulment of votes in the three Mindanao provinces, a move that Rule 65 would have precluded.

This ruling is what has enabled Calida to once again use his office to seek to tilt the case in Marcos’ favor. Calida earlier backed Marcos’ position to require a 50-percent shading threshold in the ballots over the 25-percent shading allowed by the Comelec. Calida even sought to obtain the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the member in charge of the election protest, so he could, according to his own motion, unseat Leonen via quo warranto, the same move he made to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in 2018.

While it is no longer shocking to see Calida siding with Marcos, the solicitor general having demonstrated time and again that he is a proud Marcos loyalist, it remains a deep anomaly that he would play the attack dog of an administration constituted on the same results that installed Robredo as the duly elected vice president to try to undermine the second highest official of the land.

His pursuit of Leonen’s SALN for quo warranto purposes reeks of the same underhanded bent: The administration itself has refused to release the SALN of the President, and has gone along with the Ombudsman’s new regulations imposing greater constraints on basic transparency in public office.

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As of this writing, the latest news is that Marcos has filed a motion with the PET seeking the inhibition of Leonen from handling his election protest, for Leonen’s alleged “bias and deliberate procrastination” which “continue to drag the case.” The desperation is, in a word, Trumpian.

TAGS: 2020 US presidential election, Bongbong Marcos, Donald Trump, Editorial, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Leni Robredo, Marvic Leonen, vice presidential electoral protest

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