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Ex-CJ weighs in on VP poll protest

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, must call for a special election if it grants former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s motion to annul the votes for the 2016 vice presidential election in three Mindanao provinces, a former chief justice said Thursday.

Speaking to ANC’s Headstart, Artemio Panganiban said the Marcos camp’s omnibus motion for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to “investigate the alleged substituted-voting in Lanao del Sur,

Maguindanao and Basilan” was unprecedented.

Marcos, in his motion filed in December, cited the findings of a Comelec Voters Identification Division that the 2016 elections were marked by electoral fraud based on a technical examination of the precincts in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan.

“There are many problems there, and that is why it is prudential to say ‘Just a minute, let’s have comments first.’ This time, important ang comment ni [Vice President] Leni [Robredo],” Panganiban said.

“Why is it difficult to go into that? Firstly, there has been no precedent and the rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal do not cover them.”

Panganiban said PET rules cover only quo warranto and election protests, not failure of election.

“There is no part in the rule that says the Presidential Electoral Tribunal has the power to declare an election void,” Panganiban said.

“In legal parlance that is what Marcos is doing: To declare a failure of election. The election failed because the voters were coerced, there was massive province-wide fraud.”

Panganiban said declaring a failure of election is a power given by the Election Code to the Commission on Elections.

In the absence of rules, the PET can say it is within its jurisdiction to act on Marcos’ third cause of action, he said.

“Yes. It’s within our jurisdiction and they will say since there are no rules, we will make rules, but that will take time. Even if these three provinces are excluded due allegedly to terrorism, etcetera, that’s not the end of the ball game either. There should be a new election because the electorate in those three provinces must be heard.

“The proof will take time. There are witnesses you have to present. Let us assume he [Marcos] is able to prove that. The question is, when you annul the election, what is the solution? Proclaim him winner? Not yet, new election. That’s what is provided in the election code.

“If there is a failure of election, call for a new election.”

Former COMELEC Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal earlier warned that the nullification of votes in entire provinces had never been done before, adding that doing so would have consequences.

“The wholesale annulment of votes is very scary. Once you go down that path it opens the door for so many potential problems in electoral exercises in the Philippines,” Larrazabal said.

If allowed, he said, politicians would simply file an election protest and seek to nullify votes instead of a vote recount.

“What will happen is, a particular individual will simply file a protest. No more revision of ballots, only vote nullification. And that’s wrong because if you wanna do that, you have to file a petition for failure of elections,” Larrazabal said.

Robredo’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal earlier said Marcos’ claim of electoral fraud in the three Mindanao provinces was misleading because the COMELEC Voters Identification Division only examined 200 out of 2,834 clustered precincts in the ARMM.

Technical examination by the COMELEC was different from that of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, he said.

Meanwhile, Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez said the high court could tackle both courses of action at the same time as he claimed the Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the two were “separate and distinct.” 

Topics: Supreme Court , Presidential Electoral Tribunal , Ferdinand Marcos Jr , Leni Robredo , Artemio Panganiban
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