MANILA—The camp of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has filed an urgent motion before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) seeking to designate at least three hearing officers who will assist the Tribunal during the preliminary conference on his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
The justices made their decision to grant Marcos’ request for the setting of the preliminary conference on June 21 at 2 p.m.
In a seven-page urgent ex-parte motion, Marcos through his counsel George Erwin Garcia, said that the designation of hearing officers will help the 15-member tribunal in ensure “an orderly, simplified and expeditious disposition” of his electoral protest which raised three main issues.
Garcia said it is most important that a hearing officer be assigned for each cause of action “so as not to muddle the proceedings” as they intend to present a specific set of witnesses and documentary exhibits per cause of action.
He also reiterated the need for Marcos’ election protest to be decided with dispatch and pointed out that the designation of three separate hearing officers would certainly aid the Tribunal in resolving the case in a prompt and efficient manner.
“Public interest demands that this electoral controversy be resolved with dispatch to determine once and for all the genuine choice of the electorate for the contested position. The designation of the hearing commissioners, as suggested by protestant Marcos, shall surely aid this Honorable Tribunal in achieving its mandate to ensure a prompt and expeditious resolution of this election protest,” Garcia pointed out.
He added that the designation of hearing officers prior to the conduct of the preliminary conference in consistent with the summary nature and preferential status of election protest cases.
“In a long line of decided cases, this honorable tribunal has consistently ruled that an election case, unlike an ordinary action, is imbued with public interest. Public interest demands that this electoral controversy be resolved with dispatch to determine once and for all the genuine choice of the electorate for the contested position,” read the petition.
The former senator said his petition challenging Robredo’s win “involves not only the adjudication of the private interests of rival candidates, but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty which beclouds the real choice of the electorate.”
The first part of Marcos petition was about the Automated Election System (AES). He said the vote counting machines (VCM) which was one of the components of the automated system supplied by Smartmatic has no “demonstrated capability” nor was it ever successfully used in a prior electoral exercise either in the Philippines or in any other country.
The second part of his petition consists of the more “traditional” modes of cheating like vote buying, pre-shading, intimidation and failure of elections, among others.
He specifically asked for the reopening of ballot boxes in each of the 36,465 clustered precincts in Cebu, Province of Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Masbate, Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte, Bukidnon, Iloilo Province, Bohol, Quezon Province, Batangas, Western Samar, Misamis Oriental, Camarines Sur, 2nd District of Northern Samar, Palawan, Sibugay, Misamis Occidental, Pangasinan, Isabela, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City and Zamboanga City.
Marcos is also asking the PET to annul the election results in Lanao Del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao where the ballots have been pre-shaded and recount of 22 provinces and five cities.
The third part of the protest focused on the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new hash code (or a new script / program) into the Transparency Server as well as the effects brought about by the unauthorized change.
The tribunal composed of the same 15 justices of the SC has decided to set just one preliminary conference for the protest and counter-protest, citing Rule 3 of the 2010 PET Rules that allows adjustment in rules” to achieve a just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every contest before the tribunal.”
It will be recalled that Marcos filed an election protest against Robredo in June 2016, contesting 39,221 clustered precincts which are composed of 132,446 established precincts. Robredo, meanwhile, filed a counter-protest, questioning 8,042 clustered precincts which are composed of 31,278 established precincts.
Marcos has assailed Robredo’s plea and asked the PET to dismiss her counter-protest since she failed to settle the first installment as directed by the Tribunal
In arguing for the dismissal of the counter-protest, Marcos cited Rule 34 of the 2010 PET Rules which states “if a party fails to make cash deposits or additional deposits herein required within the prescribed time limit, the Tribunal may dismiss the protest or counter-protest, or take such action as it may deem equitable under the circumstances.
Marcos also cited two decisions in election cases – Perla Garcia vs House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Rep. Harry Angping and Bienvenido William Lloren vs. Commission on Elections and Rogelio Pua Jr. in which the SC upheld the summary dismissal of the cases for failure to make the required cash deposits within the prescribed time limit.
Marcos earlier said he decided to file the electoral protest due to the series of frauds, anomalies and irregularities that marred the May 9 elections and that such activities made sure he would lose to Robredo, the vice presidential candidate of the administration’s Liberal Party.
Robredo won the 2016 vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes.