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PET keeping official copies of decrypted ballot images, other docs in VP poll protest

The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has denied the request of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to secure official copies of decrypted ballot images and other documents in relation to his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The PET said it was keeping the official copies of the documents for the duration of the recount even as it allowed Marcos to secure soft copies and photocopies of the decrypted ballot images, election returns and audit logs from contested clustered precincts of the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, “subject to the payment of incidental costs.”

The PET issued the resolution on January 10, the same day Marcos accused Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the magistrate in charge of the protest, of bias in his handling of his election protest.

“Senator Marcos had already made public last week the obvious bias of Justice Caguioa in his case and he said he would not be surprised if this kind of resolution would come out and he was correct. This is another clear confirmation that he is indeed biased against Senator Marcos and in favor of Mrs. Robredo,” Marcos’ spokesperson, Victor Rodriguez, said.

While PET is a collegial body composed of 15 SC justices, it is Caguioa, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III, who recommends to the tribunal the actions to be taken regarding Marcos’ protest and Robredo’s counter-protest. 

Rodriguez said he could not logic why the PET would deprive Marcos of the documents that the tribunal required him to pay “only to give the same documents to Robredo for free.”

“It was Senator Marcos who moved for the decryption and Mrs. Robredo even opposed it. When Tribunal granted it, it required Senator Marcos to pay for the cost of decryption which has now amounted to P7 million and still counting. But Justice Caguioa does not want to give us the documents we paid for saying the same should stay with the Tribunal and if we want copies, we should pay again,” Rodriguez said.

By comparison, the tribunal had granted as early as November 7 last year Robredo’s motion to secure the soft copies without ordering her to pay a single centavo.

Marcos appealed the PET ruling but the tribunal rejected it also on January 10.

“Indeed, Senator Marcos has not been given justice in his election protest,” Rodriguez said.

Last week, Marcos, in a news forum in Manila, slammed Caguioa as he enumerated some resolutions he issued which he said were indicative of a pattern of bias against him and in favor of Robredo.

Aside from the inordinate delay in his election protest, Marcos said some of the manifestations of Caguioa’s bias were requiring him to pay his P36 million protest fee during the Holy Week break last year, ordering him to produce 8,000 witnesses within a non-extendible period of only five days, and deferring his motion for technical evaluation of the Election Day Computerized Voters’ List (EDCVL) without offering any explanation.

“In contrast, Caguioa has been so lenient with Robredo - giving her time to pay for her protest fee when the Rules provide that non-payment may be a ground for dismissal of the counter-protest, resolving her motions after only a few days from filing and giving due course to all her motions that are clearly dilatory,” Marcos’ camp said.

Rodriguez said their case does not stand on an equal footing with Caguioa as justice in charge.

“This kind of injustice has no place in a court of law, especially in the Supreme Court,” he said.

The SC Public Information Office has since declined to comment on what it viewed as “political statements.”

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