Opening salvo: Preliminary conference on Marcos poll protest VS. VP Robredo starts July 11
The Supreme Court of the Philippines (SCOTP) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) will start the preliminary conference on the election protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday.
The PET set the preliminary conference after requiring both Marcos and Robredo to pay cash deposits of P66.02 million and P15.44 million for their respective protest and counter-protest.
The preliminary conference was originally scheduled on June 21 but the tribunal decided to re-schedule on July 11.
Related story here: Why bongbong Marcos Wants Leni Robredo Out as vice president?
Last June 14, the PET granted the urgent motion filed by Marcos to designate at least three hearing officers who will assist the Tribunal during the preliminary conference on his election protest against Robredo.
In a six-page resolution signed by Clerk of Tribuanal Felipa B. Anama, PET appointed retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose C. Vitug as chairperson of the panel of commissioners. Other members include Atty. Angelito C. Imperio and Atty. Irene Ragodon-Guevarra.
Nice to note here that in the event of failure to reach a unanimous decision, the majority decision of the commission will prevail.
The panel of commissioners will assist in the reception of evidence pursuant to Rule 55 to 62 of the PET rules. It will also set the date for the reception of evidence of all the parties involved.
The panel is also tasked to receive the affidavits of witnesses, hear their direct testimonies, including their cross, re-direct and re-cross examination. The hearing commissioners has the authority to rule on the objects made in the course of the cross-examination subject to review by the PET.
After the hearing, the commissioners shall submit all the evidence presented as well as the transcripts of the proceedings before the PET.
The PET said the chairperson shall receive a compensation of P15,000 per day of hearing or service while the members shall receive P10,000 per day of hearing or service.
Marcos through his counsel George Erwin Garcia, said that the designation of hearing officers will help the 15-member tribunal ensure “an orderly, simplified and expeditious disposition” of his electoral protest which raised three main issues.
Garcia said it is most important that a hearing officer be assigned for each cause of action “so as not to muddle the proceedings” as they intend to present a specific set of witnesses and documentary exhibits per cause of action.
The former senator said his petition challenging Robredo’s win “involves not only the adjudication of the private interests of rival candidates, but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty which beclouds the real choice of the electorate.”
The first part of Marcos petition was about the Automated Election System (AES). He said the vote counting machines (VCM) which was one of the components of the automated system supplied by Smartmatic has no “demonstrated capability” nor was it ever successfully used in a prior electoral exercise either in the Philippines or in any other country.
The second part of his petition consists of the more “traditional” modes of cheating like vote buying, pre-shading, intimidation and failure of elections, among others.
He specifically asked for the reopening of ballot boxes in each of the 36,465 clustered precincts in Cebu, Province of Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Masbate, Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte, Bukidnon, Iloilo Province, Bohol, Quezon Province, Batangas, Western Samar, Misamis Oriental, Camarines Sur, 2nd District of Northern Samar, Palawan, Sibugay, Misamis Occidental, Pangasinan, Isabela, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City and Zamboanga City.
Marcos is also asking the PET to annul the election results in Lanao Del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao where the ballots have been pre-shaded and recount of 22 provinces and five cities.
The third part of the protest focused on the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new hash code (or a new script / program) into the Transparency Server as well as the effects brought about by the unauthorized change.
The tribunal composed of the same 15 justices of the SC has decided to set just one preliminary conference for the protest and counter-protest, citing Rule 3 of the 2010 PET Rules that allows adjustment in rules” to achieve a just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every contest before the tribunal.” (With PNA reports)