By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

THE LEAD of Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo over former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. in the May 2016 elections increased by about 15,000 votes after the initial recount of ballots from three provinces.

In the 57-page resolution dated Oct. 15, the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), said that after revision and appreciation of ballots in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, Ms. Robredo’s lead over Mr. Marcos increased to 278,566 from from 263,473.

Despite this, the Tribunal said that before it ruled on the effects of the results of the vote recount as to whether it will proceed with the second cause of action sought by the former senator, which is the recount of votes in 27 other provinces, it still required the parties to comment on the said report.

It also said that it was essential to meet “due process requirements” requiring both parties to also comment on the third cause of action of Mr. Marcos to annul election results for the position in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan on ground of “terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters.”

“This Tribunal, however, will comply with its constitutionally mandated duty allowing the parties the opportunity to examine the results of the revision and appreciation of the pilot provinces as well as comment so that they are fully and fairly heard on all the related legal issues,” the resolution read.

“Based on the submissions of the parties, the Tribunal can therefore confidently and judiciously deliberate on the proper course of action as clarified by the actual position of the parties on the common issues that we have identified.”

Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S Caguioa, the justice in charge of making the report on the recount and revision of ballots and Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio dissented on the resolution.

Mr. Caguioa, in his dissenting opinion, said that the election protest should be dismissed after Mr. Marcos failed to “make out a case” in the pilot provinces he chose where cheating allegedly occurred, following the Rule 65 of the PET Rules.

Under Rule 65, the Tribunal requires a protestant to indicate three provinces “best exemplifying frauds or irregularities” which will be the subject of the recount. If, upon examination of ballots and the Tribunal is convinced that the protestee “will most probably fail to make out his case”, the protest may be dismissed, without consideration to the other provinces.

“Again, I raise the question, what else is there to say and comment on? The language and purpose of Rule 65 are clear. The results of the revision and appreciation are likewise clear. Had this case been before any of the electoral tribunals, the protest would have been dismissed,” Mr. Caguioa said.

“Directing the parties to comment on any matter or to conduct any further proceedings achieves no purpose.”

Mr. Carpio also cited Rule 65 of the PET Rules.

“Since the revision results indicate no substantial recovery on the part of protestant, and thus protestant “will most probably fail to make out his case,” the dismissal of the election protest, and thus, the discontinuance of any further proceedings, such as the rev1s1on of the remaining contested provinces, is proper pursuant to Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules,” he said in his dissenting opinion.

The retiring justice also noted that the third cause of action on the annulment of vice-presidential votes in three provinces in Mindanao would mean a revision and recount of ballots anew and will allow the protestee to exceed the maximum number of pilot provinces prescribed in the rules.

Mr. Marcos filed the election protest in June 2016 after narrowly losing to Ms. Robredo in the national elections in May that year.