MANILA – Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Wednesday said the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), is proceeding cautiously in resolving the electoral protest filed by losing vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
“I know the impatience of the public about this case of the VP being protested but we should also be careful of what we do here because the credibility of our processes as well as the political system here is at stake so dahan-dahan kami (so we’re cautious) but we are doing it with sufficient speed. Slow in the public’s perception but yung speed namin kung tutuusin mo ay mabilis (we’re proceeding relatively quickly),” he told the media during his farewell press conference at a hotel in Manila.
Bersamin is set to retire on October 18 after more than 3 decades in the judiciary.
“We are aware that the public is uneasy about our...foot-dragging siguro ang tawag nila dyan, but it is not really foot-dragging if you would know the effort that we have expended in the revision process,” he explained, adding that every member of the PET wants to resolve the electoral protest at the soonest possible time.
“This is…a matter of very high public interest because it involves, to an extent, the stability of a government in the Philippines,” said the Chief Justice.
He said he is expecting a “voluminous” report from SC Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa soon on the revision of ballots from 3 pilot provinces Marcos chose which supposedly best exemplified the cases of fraud. Caguioa is the magistrate designated to handle the electoral protest.
Marcos filed the electoral protest in June 2016 to contest Robredo’s slim lead of a little over 260,000 votes, the closest vice-presidential race in recent memory.
He claimed massive and blatant fraud, accusing the previous administration of committing "traditional election abuses," including vote-buying, ballot-switching, tampering of the transmission system, intimidation, and failure of elections.
The camps of Robredo and the former administration have denied Marcos’ claims.
In August 2017, the PET junked Marcos’ first cause of action questioning the authenticity of the results of the 2016 national elections calling it “an exercise in futility” which would have no “practical effect.”
Marcos had 2 other causes of action: the revision of ballots and the annulment of election results in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan because of alleged occurrence of more traditional modes of cheating.
In July this year, the PET denied Robredo’s claim of victory, calling the figures she cited “speculative” and her premise “fundamentally flawed.” Robredo had claimed her lead grew by as much as 15,000 based on the results of the recently-concluded revision, recount and re-appreciation of ballots from the 3 pilot provinces.
The PET also deferred action on Marcos’ move to conduct technical examination on ballots outside the 3 pilot provinces he initially chose.
The PET said its rules allow the tribunal 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.
Bersamin assured the public the PET is doing all that it can to resolve the electoral process.
“I think I join you there that we should be concerned really but we are doing everything according to processes,” he said.