MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) will start the preliminary conference on the election protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday.
The PET set the preliminary conference after requiring both Marcos and Robredo to pay cash deposits of P66.02 million and P15.44 million for their respective protest and counter-protest.
The preliminary conference was originally scheduled on June 21 but the tribunal decided to re-scheduled on July 11.
Marcos is contesting the results of 36,465 clustered precincts in 30 provinces and cities all over the country citing fraud under three main issues in his protest, namely the “flawed” Automated Election System (AES), the failure of elections in several provinces in Mindanao and the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new hash code (or a new script / program) into the Transparency Server on the day of the elections.
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.
In his protest, Marcos contested the results in a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities.
Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also filed counter-protest and questioned the results in over 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.
She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.
But the tribunal, in a ruling earlier this year, junked Robredo’s plea and proceeded with the case after finding of sufficiency in form and substance in the protest.
Last June 14, the PET granted the urgent motion filed by Marcos to designate at least three hearing officers who will assist the Tribunal during the preliminary conference on his election protest against Robredo.
In a six-page resolution signed by Felipa B. Anama, Clerk of Tribunal, PET appointed retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose C. Vitug as the chairperson of the panel of commissioners. His members are Atty. Angelito C. Imperio and Atty. Irene Ragodon-Guevarra.
“The commissioners shall decide unanimously to every extent possible, provided that in the event of failure to reach a unanimous decision, the majority decision shall prevail,” the PET resolution stated.
The panel of commissioners, the PET said shall assist in the reception of evidence pursuant to Rule 55 to 62 of the PET rules.
Under the rules, the panel shall set the date for the reception of evidence of all the parties involved in the protest and counter-protest.
The same panel shall receive the affidavits of witnesses and hear their direct testimonies of witnesses as well as their cross, re-direct and re-cross examination. The hearing commissioners also has the authority to rule on the objects made in the course of the cross-examination subject to review by the PET.
After the hearing, the hearing commissioners shall submit all the evidence presented as well as the transcripts of the proceedings before the PET.
The PET said the chairperson shall receive a compensation of PHP15,000 per day of hearing or service while the members shall receive a PHP10,000 per day of hearing or service.
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.
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.”