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PET orders Leni, Bongbong camps to comment on issues identified during prelim conference 

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on Tuesday directed the camps of Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to comment on the issues raised during the day's preliminary conference.

Both parties were given five days to submit their respective comment, after which the tribunal will come out with the preliminary conference order, which aims to limit the issues and witnesses subject of Marcos' protest and Robredo's counter protest.

The preliminary conference was attended by eight magistrates led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, lawyers for both camps, and Marcos himself.

Marcos' counsel, George Garcia, told reporters the conference touched on the issues of limiting the witnesses to three per precinct, possible storage area of ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia, and request for additional hearing commissioners and revision committees.

The tribunal is also looking into the possibility of impleading the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the protest and counter protest since it was the one in charge of the elections.

Also discussed was the impending revision of ballots from three pilot provinces which under the rules of the tribunal will best attest to the votes recovered or will best exemplify the merits or legitimacy of the respective poll protests.

Marcos' camp has proposed Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental for the pilot physical recount of the ballots, while Robredo's camp designated the provinces of Capiz, Sulu and North Cotabato.

Robredo's camp, meanwhile, insisted that the tribunal must first resolve the issue on the integrity of the automated election system before proceeding to the revision of votes.

Her lawyers said the issue on integrity affects not only Robredo's victory but the proclamation of all winning candidates from the president to the lowest councilor.

"Iisa lang ang certificate of canvass for President and Vice President. So kung sasabihin mo na hindi totoo at hindi mo mapagkakatiwalaan ang certificate of canvass ang ibig sabihin pati po ang presidente dinaya at mababakante ang posisyon," said Robredo's legal counsel Maria Bernadette Sardillo.

Still, Garcia said they hope the PET will soon order the retrieval of ballots and other election paraphernalia and begin with the revision of the ballots.

He is also hoping that the revision of the ballots for the pilot provinces will start by October and end by February 2018.

Marcos welcomed the holding of the preliminary conference, saying the tribunal has shown interest on speeding up the process of resolving the protests.

"Sa aking palagay makikita natin na simula na ang proseso at handa na ang tribunal sa pagbusisi sa ibang isyu at sa pag-revise [ng ballots]," he said.

Marcos lost to Robredo by just 263,473 votes in the May 2016 election the former senator claimed was marred by fraud.  —KBK, GMA News