The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has upheld the integrity of the automated election system challenged by former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in his protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
In a resolution dated August 29, the PET junked Marcos' first cause of action for being "meaningless and pointless."
The tribunal said "allowing the first cause of action (annulment of proclamation) to continue would be an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect."
"To be sure, the Tribunal cannot allow this exercise to even begin especially if it were to consider the amount of resources and time it will demand from the Tribunal."
And even if Marcos succeeds in proving that the certificates of canvass generated by the consolidation and canvassing system are not authentic, the PET said this will not mean that he is the rightful winner of the May 2016 poll as this can only be determined by a manual recount of all the precincts.
"Thus, the first cause of action may be dispensed with for judicial economy and for the prompt disposition of the case," the resolution stated.
With the first cause of action already rejected, Marcos' protest would be limited to revision or manual recount of the actual ballots and annulment of election results for the position of vice president in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan on the ground of terrorism, intimidation, harassment of voters and pre-shading of ballots.
Robredo's counsel, Romulo Macalintal, welcomed the PET's decision.
“We are happy that a resolution was issued by the Supreme Court denying or dismissing Mr. Marcos’ first cause of action,” he said in a press conference.
"We look forward to an early dismissal of the case of Mr. Marcos and I’m confident na kapag nabasa ito ni Mr. Marcos, I’m sure that Mr. Marcos will have second thoughts on this election protest,” Macalintal said.
In the same resolution, the PET granted Marcos' motion for retrieval of ballots and decryption and printing of ballot images in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental which the former senator selected for the pilot physical recount of the ballots.
According to the tribunal, it is premature to retrieve the ballots and conduct a technical examination on voters' signatures "other than those designated to be the pilot provinces."
"Rule 65 [of the PET Rules] allows the Tribunal to conduct the revision of ballots and reception of evidence on the designated provinces first, and on such basis, decide if it will proceed with the revision of ballots and reception of evidence on the other contested provinces in the protest," the PET said.
The tribunal also deferred action on Marcos’ request to conduct a technical examination on voters' signatures in each of the 2,756 clustered precincts in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan.
The PET also denied Robredo's motion for reconsideration on its January 24, 2017 resolution allowing Marcos' protest to proceed, arguing she only rehashed her arguments which had already been passed upon by the tribunal when it upheld the sufficiency in form and in substance of the protest.
Marcos' legal spokesperson, Victor Rodriguez, said the resolution bodes well with their objective.
“We have the case exactly where we wanted it to be, the conduct of manual recount and judicial revision and the presentation of proof," Rodriguez said in a text message.
Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 elections, which the former senator claimed was marred by fraud. —ALG/NB, GMA News