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Robredo camp to Comelec: Stop premature statement about ‘remotely possible’ special polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) should stop making premature statements on holding special elections pending resolution of the poll protest lodged by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

This was the call made by election lawyer and Robredo camp’s legal consultant Emil Marañon III on Thursday in light of the comments by Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez that the poll body is ready to conduct special elections in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao provided that the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), orders it.

Marcos is asking the PET to annul the 2016 poll results in the Vice Presidential race in these three provinces.

“With all due respect, holding a special election is not as simple as this. There are many considerations, not just a matter of willingness on Comelec's part. Administrative questions have to be settled. Who will finance the elections? Is it Bongbong Marcos? If it is the government, should there be prior appropriation from Congress?” Marañon said in a statement.

“Can Comelec spend its own savings for it? Is there a line item for special elections arising from an election protest that would facilitate a realignment? In other words, the question of special election remains a very remote possibility. Marcos has yet to hurdle Rule 65,” Marañon added.

Rule 65 of the PET rules states “The Tribunal may require the protestant or counter-protestant to indicate, within a fixed period, the province or provinces numbering not more than three, best exemplifying the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition; and the revision of ballots and reception of evidence will begin with such provinces.”

The same Rule adds, “If upon examination of such ballots and proof, and after making reasonable allowances, the Tribunal is convinced that, taking all circumstances into account, the protestant or counter-protestant will most probably fail to make out his case, the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.”

Based on the results of manual recount of the three pilot provinces chosen by Marcos namely Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, Robredo widened her 263,473 lead over Marcos by around 15,000 votes.

The PET, in a ruling last October 15, asked both the Robredo and Marcos camps to comment on such results, as well as Marcos’ bid to annul 2016 election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao within 20 working days.

In closing, Marañon urged the Comelec to defend its integrity in doing its mandate rather than playing to Marcos’ wishes.

“This discussion [on holding special elections] is better reserved when that day comes. In fact, as of now, Comelec should rather defend and stand by the 2016 Automated Election System—which it designed, procured and implemented—which is now being assailed by Bongbong Marcos in his election protest,” Marañon added. — MDM, GMA News