By Kristine Joy V. Patag, Reporter

PET creates panel on Marcos electoral protest

Posted on June 17, 2017

THE SUPREME Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has created a three-man panel of commissioners to help in deliberating the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. and counter-protest by Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo.

Former Senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' R. Marcos, Jr. waves as he holds his certificate of candidacy which he filed in this photo taken on Oct. 13, 2015. -- AFP
In a six-page resolution made public yesterday, the tribunal designated retired SC associate justice Jose C. Vitug as chairperson of the panel. Other members are lawyers Angelito C. Imperio and Irene Ragodon-Guevarra.

“To aid the Tribunal in the just and expeditious disposition of the protest and counter-protest, the Tribunal deems it necessary to already constitute a panel of three (3) hearing commissioners to act on behalf of and under the control and supervision of the Tribunal in presiding over, among others, the reception of evidence under Rules 55 to 62 of the PET rules,” the PET resolution reads.

“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 added.

Under the rules highlighted by the tribunal, the panel shall set the “date for the reception of evidence and submission of the affidavits of the witnesses of the parties, with the adverse parties being furnished copies.”

The commissioners are also tasked to cross-examine the witnesses presented by the parties. After the hearing, the panel “shall submit the evidence presented, together with the transcripts of the proceedings held before him, to the Tribunal within five days.”

The Tribunal said Mr. Vitug, as chairperson of the panel, shall receive a compensation of P15,000 per day of hearing or service and P10,000 will be given to the members of the panel per day of service.

In a related development, both camps of Mr. Marcos and Ms. Robredo filed their pre-trial briefs before the PET yesterday.

The camp of Mr. Marcos, led by his counsel Victor Rodriguez, identified three pilot provinces that they wish to be subjected to a manual recount, namely: Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental provinces.

The said provinces “will clearly show that there are major discrepancies in the votes cast in the ballots and those transmitted by the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) and reported in the Certificates of Canvass (COCs).”

The Marcos camp also listed 362 witnesses for the preliminary conference, including Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials led by Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim, Directors Jose Tolentino, Esther Roxas, J. Thaddeus Fernan, Teopisto Elnas and Ferdinand De Leon; Smartmatic executives Marlon Garcia and Elie Moreno, election officers in the 33 contested provinces and cities as well as election and information technology experts.

Comelec and Smartmatic personnel, including Mr. Garcia, were earlier charged with violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act, after the Department of Justice (DoJ) found probable cause on data tweaking on the 2016 national elections.

“Allegedly, the act of ‘tweaking’ the script of the transparency server caused widespread anxiety and concern all over the nation. The lapses in protocol have undermined the credibility and integrity of the 2016 elections, including the confidentiality, integrity and availability afforded to computer data and systems,” the DoJ said in its resolution.

Meanwhile, Ms. Robredo also filed a 146-page pre-trial brief where she identified Capiz, Sulu, and North Cotabato as pilot provinces.

Ms. Robredo’s camp listed 670 witnesses to attest to the merits of her counter-protest. Some of their witnesses are non-registered voters whose votes were counted in contested provinces.

Part of the prefatory statement of Ms. Robredo’s brief reads: “[Mr.] Marcos is throwing everything on the wall, hoping that something sticks.”

Romulo P. Macalintal, lawyer of Ms. Robredo, noted that Mr. Marcos’s protest claimed that the 2016 Automated Election System is non-compliant with Republic Act No. 8436, as amended, “a defect which he claims has rendered the whole automated election system null and void.”

“Yet, in doing so, Marcos limits his questions to one position -- the Vice-Presidency. It is clear, however, that his claim effectively attacks not only protestee Robredo’s canvassed votes but also his own,” Mr. Macalintal pointed out.

The tribunal has set a preliminary conference on July 11, 2:00 p.m.

The case stemmed from an electoral protest filed by Mr. Marcos after losing in the vice-presidential race by a slim margin of about 260,000 votes to Ms. Robredo after leading by about a million votes early in the election count.