By: Tetch Torres-Tupas - Reporter / @T2TupasINQINQUIRER.net
Photo: Former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo. FILE PHOTOS
The Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has started the ball rolling on the electoral protest of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and the counter-protest of Vice President Leni Robredo.
Eight Justices led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno were present during the preliminary conference on Tuesday.
The camps of Marcos and Robredo faced each other for the first time as the PET discussed the issues to be resolved in the protest and counter-protest in a closed-door hearing.
Marcos, who was present during the preliminary conference, said he was pleased that the process on his protest has been moving.
“What is clear with the justices is that they are very interested in proceeding to the arguments and finally to the revision of the counting of votes. We are thankful that the justices are also interested on how to speed up the process so that our people will really know the real count of votes,” Marcos said at a press conference Tuesday.
Atty. George Erwin Garcia accused the Robredo camp of attempting to delay the process by raising issues that should have not been part of the case.
“Good thing the tribunal really wanted to open the ballot boxes because they really wanted to find out the truth,” Garcia said.
“The Tribunal is hell-bent in proceeding with the case…It’s good that the Tribunal disregarded the issues raised by the other parties,” he added.
Robredo’s camp, on the other hand, said the PET has not resolved yet pending motions filed by both camps.
Atty. Maria Bernadette Sardillo said some justices raised concerns on the feasibility and practicability of the Marcos’ bid for recount and revision of voting results.
“One of the justices said it would be logistically hard for the tribunal to conduct the recount,” Sardillo said.
The lawyer also cited the comment made by another justice that it might be hard to reexamine the results in the vice presidential contest without considering the implications on the results in other key positions given that the elections were automated.
She explained that the justice asked the Marcos camp if they are willing to accept the result of the automated election system because, quoting the high court justice, she said “one cannot surgically remove the result of the vice president on the result for other positions from President to councilor.”
According to Sardillo, the Marcos camp said they are willing to accept it.
Shen said their camp, however, is against reexamining only the result of the vice presidential post in the AES.
“There is only one certificate of canvass for President and Vice President. If you will tell us that you cannot trust that one COC, it means you are also doubting the result of the Presidential post and the position will become vacant,” she explained.
She also added that the justices wanted to limit the witness to three per contested clustered precinct.
After the preliminary conference attended by eight justices, the tribunal is expected to issue ruling on the pending motions of the parties.
Marcos filed the protest on June 29 last year, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May also last year. He sought annulment of about a million votes cast in three provinces – Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.
In his protest, Marcos contested the poll results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities.
In his preliminary conference brief, Marcos also sought the recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also filed counter-protest and questioned the poll results from over 30,000 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.
Robredo won the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes.