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Marcos counsel to Robredo camp: Nothing wrong with expediting poll protest 

The camp of former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Friday refuted the claim of Vice President Leni Robredo's counsel that his request for the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to assign hearing officers on his poll protest was "premature" and "impractical."

Marcos is seeking for at least three hearing officers for the three issues that he wanted to be resolved by the tribunal, a move his lawyer George Garcia said had been done in the past.

Garcia cited the election protest filed by former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II against former Vice President Jejomar Binay over the results in the 2010 vice presidential race, where the PET designated retired SC Justice Bernardo Pardo as hearing commissioner prior to the conduct of the preliminary conference.

"In fact, he was the one that conducted the same. Hence, our prayer is neither premature nor unprecedented," Garcia told GMA News Online.

"On the number of hearing commissioners, the discretion belongs to the tribunal. There is nothing wrong in expediting an election protest. It is always imbued with public interest," he added.

The PET is set to hold a preliminary conference on June 21 in connection with Marcos' protest which Robredo had already challenged by filing a counter protest.

During the preliminary conference, the parties are expected to discuss the issues to be resolved, the list of witnesses, and the evidence to be presented, as well as the schedule of hearings and the revision of the ballots.

Filed on May 12, Marcos' motion said that the designation of hearing officers prior to the conduct of the preliminary conference was consistent with the "summary nature and preferential status of election protest cases."

Robredo's lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, then criticized Marcos' move, saying the former senator was preempting the action of the PET on the matter.

Macalintal said Marcos' motion was "practically intended" to condition the minds of the people or the tribunal on the issues the former senator wanted to be resolved by the PET.

Marcos had raised with the PET the “flawed” Automated Election System (AES), the failure of elections in several provinces in Mindanao, and the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new script into the transparency server on the day of the elections on May 9, 2016.

"We are not even sure whether the three causes of action raised by Marcos in his protest would be sustained by the PET," Macalintal said.

"Furthermore, it would be impractical to have three officers to hear the three causes of action. There is only one lead lawyer for the protestant and the protestee. Surely, the lead lawyer has to be present in every stage of the hearing and cannot be in three places at the same time," he added.

Garcia said Macalintal was entitled to his opinion "as expected from a lawyer protecting the interest of a client."

"But as it is right now, a mere opinion is not controlling," Garcia said.

Marcos lost to Robredo by just 263,473 votes in the May 2016 election, making it the closest vice presidential contest since democracy was restored in 1986. —KBK, GMA News