Is it really a matter of carefulness that the Supreme Court (SC) acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has been delaying the conclusion of the vice-presidential protest, or is it just a plain excuse in having the years go by until the term of the protestant is over?
SC Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, who is retiring in 18 October, said there is no foot dragging in the electoral protest. He said, “I know the impatience of the public about this case of the VP being protested but we should also be careful of what we do here because the credibility of our processes as well as the political system here is at stake. So, we have to be cautious. But we are doing it with sufficient speed. Slow in the public’s perception but we are proceeding relatively quickly,” he told the media during his farewell press conference at a hotel in Manila.
However, this is precisely the big problem, despite the Chief Justice saying that there is no foot-dragging and that the PET is merely being very careful, since credibility is at stake.
The fact is that all electoral protests filed before the PET have never been resolved credibly, since such presidential and vice-presidential protests have all ended up with the SC-PET not finishing the job it was paid handsomely in the tens of millions to do, by both the protestant and the protestee.
In the many presidential and vice-presidential protests lodged before the PET in a number of electoral years, it is a fact that there has not been a case where the protestant won his case. What the SC-PET is known for is one where the Tribunal resolves the case only after the protestant runs for an elective seat in the next polls, after which it finally rules on the case, dismissing the protestant’s electoral protest, with the Tribunal taking the easy way out by stating that the protestant has abandoned his/her protest, having sought a Senate seat.
Why seeking a Senate seat with the protestant running for a lower seat can be claimed by the PET to be a case of abandonment just doesn’t make sense.
The PET certainly could and should have continued with the case, and if the protestant wins her case, then she would be proclaimed the legitimate president and the winner could certainly have ascended to the Malacañang throne.
The same ruling of abandonment was made by the PET in the case of then vice-presidential bet Loren Legarda, the then protestant. Why the PET never continues with the protest is highly unfair to the electorate, as the possibility or even probability of a presidential or vice-presidential candidate is high and that cheats may be proclaimed even when the electorate did not vote for such candidates. It can even be said that this way, the PET encourages the sovereign will of the electorate to be thwarted.
In much the same way, although taking a longer time, the PET appeared to have waited — not just three years, but for six long years to settle the case of the vice-presidential protest lodged by then vice presidential bet, Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas against the then proclaimed VP winner, Jojo Binay, who had also filed a counter-protest. And the end result of the PET’s ruling? Why, just what was expected by the public, since the VP’s six year term was over and the protests had become moot.
In much the same way, the protest lodged by losing vice-presidential bet Bongbong Marcos to this day has not been resolved by the PET, despite the tens of millions paid to the SC-PET for the process.
Why do the justices think that the PET process is credible, when there has been no credible resolution to the protests in the past, and even today’s vice-presidential protest filed by Marcos?
Why does it have to take well over six years — which would be the term of a vice president/president to resolve such cases with credibility when credibility is absent precisely because the past PET actions speak too loudly of foot dragging?
But the Chief Justice said they have to be careful on what to decide and that it is not a case of foot dragging if people knew of the effort expended by the PET in the revision process.
Bersamin added that Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the PET member in charge of the case, is expected to submit a “voluminous report” to the other justices on the revision which involves a manual recount of, initially, three provinces chosen by Marcos: Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental. Claims and objections would have to be ruled on by the PET.
But that is not the end of it, as the results of the revision will determine if Marcos’ case will progress to the rest of his contested clustered voting precincts.
That can take the protest up till the 2022 presidential elections where the PET-SC will rule that the Marcos protest has been dismissed, since the vice-presidential term has run out.
Is the SC-PET being fair to the electorate by dragging its feet some more in yet another presidential/vice presidential protest?
A better question is this: Does the SC really care that the sovereign will of the electorate may have been thwarted again?