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Editorial

Move on, Bongbong

/ 05:09 AM February 18, 2021

It’s a three-peat for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and that must sting.

The unanimous decision by the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to dismiss the Marcos scion’s electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo should write finis to and demolish for good his groundless contention that Robredo had somehow cheated him of victory in the 2016 elections.

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Marcos Jr. and his minions have bitterly and relentlessly foisted that fiction on the country over the last four years, even as there was scant evidence to prove his charges; President Duterte himself — an unabashed ally of the family who professed admiration for the Marcos paterfamilias, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and boasted that Marcos Jr.’s sister, now senator Imee Marcos, was one of his campaign contributors — was brought to power along with nearly the entire ruling class at present on the strength of the same ballots, voting machines, and election returns that gave the victory to Robredo.

None of them saw fit to contest the outcome of the elections; only Bongbong, bearer of the family name associated with the worst cheating, chicanery, and fraud in Philippine politics (“The rotten election,” Newsweek declared of the conduct of the 1986 snap polls where Ferdinand Sr. threw everything against Cory Aquino), ironically bleated that he had been robbed.

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That first rebuff by the electorate should have sobered up Marcos Jr., but what unreeled was a well-oiled, multi-pronged campaign to prove his point. On the legal front, the Marcos camp filed an electoral protest at the PET, first demanding that the result of the vice presidential election be summarily nullified, which was rejected by the tribunal; and second, that the votes be recounted in some 36,000 precincts in 27 provinces and cities. A second look at the ballots in areas his camp alleged were fraught with cheating, Bongbong contended, would show that Robredo’s votes were “products of electoral frauds, anomalies, and irregularities,” while his votes, on the other hand, “were significantly reduced, manipulated and altered,” thus his final losing numbers of 14,155,344 votes to her 14,418,817 votes.

On the political front, meanwhile, a shadowy troll army would soon launch what would become the most vicious campaign of vilification and disruption ever directed at a public official in contemporary Philippine history—a sustained cannonade of slander, abuse, disinformation, and fake news all designed to delegitimize and invalidate Robredo’s position before the public. In this, the Marcoses had ample help from the Duterte administration, which could only show contempt toward the duly elected Vice President, eventually driving her to resign from the one minor and token Cabinet position given her in the administration’s early days. Robredo would thereafter be a permanent political outcast, while her losing opponent enjoyed fulsome assistance from the likes of Solicitor General Jose Calida, also a professed Marcos loyalist, who used the authority of his office to back various bids by the Marcos camp before the PET, from contradicting the Commission on Elections’ position that the ballot-shading threshold should be 25 percent (Calida and Marcos insisted it should be 50 percent; the PET sided with the Comelec) to petitioning for the inhibition of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the justice-in-charge of the election protest, for allegedly being biased against the Marcoses (petition unanimously denied by the tribunal).

In October 2019, after more than three years of laborious work by the PET, came the second rebuff of Marcos Jr: The three pilot provinces he had chosen that would supposedly prove his charges of cheating — Camarines Sur, Robredo’s bailiwick, and Iloilo and Negros Oriental in the Visayas — would in fact deal his cause a crushing blow. According to the PET, “Based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces, protestee Robredo maintained, as in fact she increased, her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,771 votes.” Robredo had gained 15,093 more votes, showing up Marcos Jr.’s claims of cheating for the hot air they were.

The humiliation of that decisive result should have been the end of this man’s delusions of victory, but when the PET still dilly-dallied in dismissing the protest outright, the Marcos-Calida tandem went for the jugular, machinating to impeach Leonen by quo warranto based on his SALNs, and when that failed, demanding that the PET have him inhibit from the case. For that desperate caper, Calida was sternly upbraided by the tribunal, while Marcos Jr. was advised to “maintain his arguments within the realm of reality.”

With the unanimous dismissal on Tuesday of the “entire” electoral protest (clarification supplied by the PET), reality has come for Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and it has one simple, implacable message: You lost. Move on.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Editorial, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, leni robredo, pet, Supreme Court, vice presidential electoral protest
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