Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should clarify with the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), whether former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. should pay for the expenses the poll body has incurred because of his election protest.
Vice President Leni Robredo's lawyers raised this concern with the PET on Tuesday after the Comelec said last month that it might need to pay P2.08 billion under its automated election contracts.
The amount represents the non-turnover of 97,365 rented voting counting machines (VCMs) to poll technology provider Smartmatic last December.
"If only to avoid confusion on who will be liable for these amounts, we are constrained to seek a clarification," Robredo's legal counsel Romulo Macalintal said.
Under the contract, all goods that are in the possession of the Comelec as of December 1, 2016 would be considered sold in line with the provision on the option to purchase.
Robredo's camp said the Comelec could not turn over the machines since Marcos is seeking the technical examination, forensic investigation, verification and analysis of the equipment.
Also, on at least two occasions, in August 2016 and September 2016, Marcos opposed the closure and stripping activities on the VCMs scheduled by the Comelec.
"Should the Comelec physically turn over and Smartmatic accepts, then the intention of protestant Marcos to seek a technical examination and forensic analysis of the VCMs will be rendered for naught," the manifestation stated.
Robredo's lawyers said the Comelec is also running up expenses of at least P5.61 million monthly for the lease of a warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna in which the VCMs are being kept.
Of this amount, P2.74 million goes to the lease of the warehouse, P2.15 million for the equipment rental, P461,164 for salaries of personnel, and P261,280 for electricity, drinking water and gasoline costs.
The vice president's camp said she should not be made liable for the P2.08 billion representing the cost of the VCMs used during the May 2016 elections and P5.61 million for the rent of the Sta. Rosa warehouse and other related expenses considering it is Marcos' protest that prevented their return.
Sought for comment, Marcos' legal spokesperson Victor Rodriguez slammed Robredo's motion as a "brazen attempt" that "insults the intelligence and sentiment of the Filipino people.”
“She [Robredo] is obviously in panic now that the case is moving. Instead of her usual thoughtless buck passing, why does she not she make her beloved Liberal Party, Comelec and partner Smartmatic accountable for the mess they did to our system?” he said.
The PET is set to hold a preliminary conference on July 11 in connection with Marcos' protest and Robredo's 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.
Marcos lost to Robredo by just 263,473 votes in the May 2016 election the former senator claimed was marred by fraud. — MDM/KVD, GMA News