MANILA (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court has deferred action on the plea of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to examine ballots from 3 southern provinces in connection with his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), the high court en banc said it would not act on Marcos' "premature" motion for a technical examination of the ballots from Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao until after its initial determination of the grounds for his electoral protest.
The tribunal is allowed to "conduct revision of ballots and reception of evidence on the designated pilot provinces first, and on such basis, dismiss the protest if it finds that the protestant will most probably fail to make out a case," read the PET resolution dated July 2.
Marcos had chosen Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental as the pilot provinces which "best exemplify frauds or irregularities alleged in the electoral protest."
But in an omnibus motion in December last year, Marcos asked the PET to investigate alleged substituted-voting in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan, as supposedly shown by a mismatch between the signatures and thumbprints of voters in the registration record and a computerized list.
He cited findings by the Commission on Elections that the 2016 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was replaced by the Bangsamoro region, was "marked with different forms of election fraud such as massive substituted voting."
The findings were in connection with an electoral protest filed by losing ARMM gubernatorial candidate Abdusakur Tan against then ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
ROBREDO’S CLAIM OF VICTORY ‘SPECULATIVE’
Robredo had called the move a “desperate attempt” to save a “dying” electoral protest, claiming that the the results of the revision and recount showed “no substantial recovery” of votes for the Marcos camp.
Last month, she filed a motion for the PET to immediately resolve the electoral protest, claiming that her lead grew by as much as 15,000 based on results of the recently-concluded revision, recount and re-appreciation of ballots from the 3 pilot provinces.
Robredo garnered 14,418,817 votes upon proclamation, 263,473 votes more than Marcos' 14,155,344, the closest vice-presidential race in recent memory.
But the tribunal, in the same resolution, denied Robredo’s motion, calling the figures she cited “speculative.”
“The figures submitted by protestee (Robredo) are merely speculative. In arriving at the figures, protestee presumes that all her claims will be admitted by the Tribunal,” the PET said.
“This premise is fundamentally flawed as the Tribunal is still in the process of appreciation of the revised ballots and ruling on the respective objections and claims made by the parties thereon,” it added.
COMELEC ASKED TO EXPLAIN
In the same resolution, Comelec was asked to explain why there were no ballot images in 5 clustered precincts in Camarines Sur and Iloilo.
Comelec earlier said the board of election inspectors in 3 of the 5 clustered precincts performed a “REZERO” function of the vote counting machines which erased all the reports and ballots, except for audit logs.
The PET wanted to know why this was done and if this was in line with standard procedure. It also asked if the ballot images could still be recovered and if there are accurate and reliable substitutes.
In addition, the PET directed Comelec to explain the issue of non-chronological sequencing of ballot images and alleged excess ballot images in a clustered precinct in Camarines Sur raised by Marcos.
However, the PET clarified that the issue did not affect the revision proceedings as it was primarily meant to segregate ballots and for the parties to register their claims and objections.
ROBREDO 'EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED'
Robredo's camp, meanwhile, said it respected the decision of the electoral body.
“We are extremely disappointed, but we fully respect the Presidential Electoral Tribunal’s decision to deny our motion for immediate resolution in connection with the election protest of losing candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,” Robredo’s lawyer Ma. Bernadette Sardillo said in a statement.
Sardillo stressed that they filed their motion as Marcos has not proven that he won against Robredo in the three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
“We pushed for the immediate resolution of the case so as to prevent Marcos’ camp from spreading misinformation and propaganda to deceive the public about the genuine results of the 2016 elections, which thèy have been doing from the beginning of this process,” Sardillo said.
“In the end, we are confident that Vice President Robredo will be vindicated and her victory confirmed."