MANILA (3rd UPDATE) – Vice President Leni Robredo’s lead over former senator Bongbong Marcos grew by as much as 15,000 votes after the initial recount in the election protest the latter filed, the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) said in a resolution.
The resolution, made public Friday, said Robredo's lead over Marcos increased from 263,473 to 278,566 after initial recount, up by 15,093 votes.
"Thus, based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the
votes in the pilot provinces, protestee Robredo maintained, as in fact she increased, her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,771 votes," the resolution read.
Two other tribunal members also made reference to the rise in the lead.
In his dissenting opinion, SC Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa said the initial recount even increased Robredo's lead over Marcos.
He said Robredo got 14,436,325 votes, increasing her lead from 263,473 to 278,555 over Marcos, who obtained 14,157,770 votes
“The Tribunal retrieved thousands of ballot boxes from three provinces, revised millions of ballots, and ruled on each and every objection and claim of the parties on these millions of ballots. After all these, the Tribunal eventually arrived at a final tally," said Caguioa in his dissenting opinion the high court released Friday along with the resolution.
Caguioa insisted that following Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules, the election protest should be dismissed.
Under Rule 65, the protest may be dismissed “without further consideration of the other provinces” if the protestant will most probably fail to make out his case after the initial recount involving 3 provinces.
Caguioa said it is a disservice to the PET Rules to refuse to dismiss the protest despite “clear and unmistakable lack of basis."
The Supreme Court, voting 11-2, had opted to require both parties to comment on the report and to submit their memoranda on Marcos’ third cause of action seeking to annul the elections in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao, citing due process requirements.
"This controversy has spawned very serious but unfounded and careless speculations on the part of many partisan observers who, on the basis of incomplete information, would rather latch on to their favorite conspiratorial theories rather than critically examine the facts and the law involved in this case," the resolution read.
"This Tribunal, however, will comply with its constitutionally mandated duty allowing the parties the opportunity to examine the results of the revision and appreciation of the pilot provinces as well as comment so that they are fully and fairly heard on all the related legal issues," it added.
But Caguioa does not see the wisdom of requiring parties to comment.
“Because from the results, what else is there to say and comment on? Under the PET Rules, how else is the Tribunal to decide? To my mind, asking the parties to comment on the foregoing clear and unequivocal results is a failure to terminate and dispose the Protest in a just, speedy, and expeditious manner, when a clear ground exists for its dismissal,” he said.
Joining Caguioa in dissenting is Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who said PET Rules are clear that the pilot provinces should not be more than three.
Marcos had chosen Negros Oriental, Camarines Sur and Iloilo as his pilot provinces but wanted to look into the three provinces in Mindanao.
Carpio also said the initial recount resulted in a net increase of 15,093 votes in favor of Robredo.
He added that even Marcos’ third cause of action on annulment of elections in 3 Mindanao provinces requires revision and recount of ballots, and these provinces should have formed part of the pilot provinces.
"The last thing that this Tribunal should do is to change its rules in midstream to accommodate a party who has failed to comply with what Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules expressly requires," he said.
BOTH SIDES' REACTION
Robredo's camp welcomed the development, saying "they have proven their victory again in the recount."
"Clearly, we won in May 2016," Atty. Beng Sardillo, Robredo's counsel, said in a statement.
Atty. Barry Gutierrez, Robredo's spokesman, said the development only confirmed their victory in 2016.
"Mula simula, ito na ang aming sinasabi, na ayon sa recount ng tatlong pilot provinces, tumaas lalo ang lamang ni VP Leni kay Marcos. Tinawag kaming sinungaling, inakusahan kaming nagkakalat ng fake news," Gutierrez said.
"Ngayon, simple lang ang tanong namin: Sino ang napatunayang sinungaling?"
Robredo's camp urged Marcos to "respect the decision of the Filipino people and don’t confuse the public with misinformation and lies."
"Ibabalik ko kay Ginoong Marcos ang isang paboritong sabihin ng pamilya niya: Move on na. Natalo ka, tanggapin mo na," said Gutierrez.
However, the spokesperson of Marcos said the figures presented by Caguioa were a "confirmation of their suspicions" that Robredo's "premature celebration and claim of another fake victory in the Tribunal was a product of advance information she's been receiving all along through a highly placed deep throat."
"Precisely why the majority of the Tribunal by a very decisive 11-2 vote, emphatically junked that Caguioa minority opinion favoring Mrs. Leni Robredo, finding the figures presented before them to be outrageous and ordered the election protest to proceed with the parties to file their Comment and Memoranda," Atty. Vic Rodriguez said in a statement.