Philippines Report

Bongbong’s accusation of PET as unfair: What’s behind it?

Former Sen. Bongbong Marcos on Wednesday accused the Associate Justice Alfred Benjamin Caguioa of issuing “unfair” rulings on his ongoing electoral case against Vice President Leni Robredo.

At a media forum on Wednesday, Marcos said Caguioa has been releasing “disappointing” resolutions “skewed” to benefit Robredo.

The case of Marcos was raffled to Caguioa, the last appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III. The Supreme Court sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Marcos lost to Robredo by a slim margin of about 260,000 votes in the 2016 national elections. Marcos — son of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of committing massive human rights violations and corruption in more than two decades in office — has accused Robredo of cheating her way to the second highest office in the land.

He filed an electoral protest against Robredo on June 29, 2016. On Feb. 16, 2017, the tribunal deemed his protest sufficient in form and substance.

But Marcos told reporters at the forum: “It has now become fairly obvious that his resolutions are biased against me and biased in favor my oppositor.”

8,000 names in five days

Marcos lamented that his camp was asked to produce 8,000 witnesses within five days as part of the tribunal's action on Marcos' third cause of action in his petition. The action seeks the nullification of the election results in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan.

There are a total of 2,756 clustered precincts in the three provinces. He claimed the voters were subjected to terrorism, intimidation and harassment in those areas.

 

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“We lost sleep just to comply with his order. But what did [the court] do? Instead of taking it up, they deferred it. Perhaps they hoped that we would not be able to come up with the with 8,000 witnesses, they would just dismiss it. But we were able to produce the number, that's why it stayed,” Marcos told the reporters.

How the case went:

The PET, in a resolution dated August 29, ordered the Marcos camp to submit 8,000 names within five days. The tribunal warned that failure to do so will waive his right “to name and identify his witnesses, and to present them during the reception of evidence.”

Marcos, on September 11, filed a motion to comply with the court's order. He submitted a list of only 171 names of supposed witnesses.

Citing fear for the security of his witnesses, Marcos also asked the court to be allowed to withhold the names of the witnesses and submit it in “another motion.”

The PET, however, reiterated in a notice dated October 5, that Marcos needs to comply with its earlier order to submit all the names of the witnesses.

Marcos then submitted the list with 7,356 names on October 9.

Delay of payment

Marcos also pointed out that the tribunal directed him to produce a P36-million protest fee in just two days “right smack during Holy Week of last year when all the banks were closed.”

He added that Robredo, who filed her counter-protest against Marcos, failed to pay for her electoral bond.

How the case went:

The tribunal, in an order dated March 21, 2017, ordered Marcos to pay a cash deposit amounting to P66.223 million to cover for his electoral bond.

 

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The amount is said to cover for the “established precincts” in the provinces Marcos deemed to have an electoral fraud or failure.

Marcos paid the first tranche of the payment amounting to P36 million the April 17, 2017, Easter Monday, when banks resumed operations.

Based on the website of Marcos, his camp received the resolution on April 10, 2017 which was a Holy Monday.

The PET also ordered Robredo to pay P15.43 million for her counter-protest.

Release of ballot images

Marcos claimed that his camp is yet to receive the printed ballot images from the decrypted cards from clustered precincts in the case. He noted that his camp shouldered the cost that amounted to P7 million.

“When the ballot images were produced, the camp of Leni Robredo who had objected to the printing of the ballot images asked for a soft copy without paying,” Marcos said.

READ: SC upholds integrity of 2016 polls, orders ballot boxes retrieved

“It would just be given to her for free what I paid for,” he added.

As accuser, however, Marcos has the burden of proof—the obligation to prove his claims.

How the case went:

The amount covers the costs and expenses for the conduct of the decryption and printing of ballot images, election returns and audit logs for the three pilot provinces in his case: Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Robredo's home province, Camarines Sur.

The move was initially opposed by the camp of Robredo.

After Marcos' motion for decryption was approved, Robredo filed a motion to be allowed to secure soft copies of the printed ballot images from the ongoing decryption activity. Her motion was approved by the PET.

The three-page PET resolution read: “[I]t would be for the benefit of the parties that they be allowed to secure the soft copies of the ballot images and other reports from the decrypted secure digital cards to protect their rights and interests in this election protest.”

Bias? Or just an acting court?

Despite his grievances against the tribunal, the process of Marcos' electoral case has gained traction in the tribunal faster than other electoral protests.

Just 19 months since Marcos filed his electoral protest, the PET is readying to start its ballot recount on February.

The electoral case of former Sen. Mar Roxas against former Vice President Jejomar Binay took six years until it was eventually dismissed.

Roxas initiated the protest on July 9, 2010, and was officially dismissed on August 16, 2016 following the results of the May 2016 elections which effectively ended Binay's term as Vice President.

Meanwhile, the electoral case set by the late Miriam Defensor Santiago contesting the presidential win of Fidel Ramos was dismissed by the PET after years.

The tribunal ruled that case as moot and academic, when Santiago ran and took a seat in the Senate. The elections was three years since her protest case against Ramos.

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