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PET slow, careful on poll protest

Alvin Murcia

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Bersamin: We have to be careful

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) is adopting a “slowly but surely” tact in resolving the electoral protest of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

“I know the public is impatient but we have to be careful—we also want a speedy resolution though the public perception is slow—but we have to be careful,” Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said during his “breaking bread” with mediamen covering the justice beat Wednesday.

It is because the credibility of the processes as well as the political system is at stake so they are doing it gradually but with sufficient speed, added the Chief Justice.

He appealed for understanding from the public as the case involves the stability of the government.

Meanwhile, Bersamin said the SC sitting as PET is expecting a “voluminous report” from Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa on the result of the preliminary revision of ballots in three pilot provinces covering the election protest filed by Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Caguioa, who is handling the election protest, is likely to submit his report before he steps down as head of the judiciary on 18 October, according to Bersamin.

The preliminary revision covers Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental. When the PET finished its recount in the pilot provinces, it will decide whether to proceed in the vote revision on 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities identified in Marcos election protest.

The Chief Justice said the report is a prelude to the action of the Court on whether to proceed to the other aspects of the case.

In his petition, Marcos has three causes of action namely that the Automated Elections System (AES) was compromised, hence, the integrity of the AES cannot be relied upon to declare a legitimate winner; the revision or manual recount of the actual ballots to determine the votes cast in all the 36,465 protested clustered precincts and the annulment of election results for the VP position in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan on the ground of terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters as well as pre-shading of ballots in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts in the said areas.

The first cause of action under the petition of Marcos was dismissed by PET for being “meaningless and pointless.”

The Court held that even if Marcos succeeds in proving his first cause of action, it does not mean that he can claim victory for the VP post because it can only be determined by a manual recount of all votes in all precincts.

It said “allowing the first cause of action to continue would be an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect,.

The PET held that the first cause of action may be dispensed with for “judicial economy” and for the speedy resolution of the case.

Bersamin said they are expecting very soon that the ponente, Caguiao, will come up with his report and has informed the other justices that his report will be voluminous because details of whether or not the ballots are to be part of counting are expected.

He declined to divulge the progress on the third cause of action explaining he is not authorized to make public any result on the said aspect.

On 29 June 2016, Marcos filed the election protest claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May also year.

It was answered by Robredo in August last year and she filed a counter-protest and questioned the results in over 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

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