ALL PARTIES to the election protest filed against Vice President Leni Robredo by defeated candidate Bongbong Marcos should be ordered by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to stop arguing the case outside the court.
Since the start of the manual recount Monday, the free-wheeling discussion outside the tribunal as picked up by the media could color public opinion that could, in turn, influence some of the Supreme Court justices sitting as PET members.
One can imagine the confusion, if not injustice, if issues continue to be debated in two different settings — one confined and governed by strict rules of procedure, and another that is open and liable to malicious manipulation.
The discovery of wet ballots and missing audit logs, for instance, was reported to media by Marcos the other day. He could have merely filed with the PET his observations, but he went to town – with partisans amplifying the supposed irregularity.
The opposing camp of Robredo gave its own views, fueling an exchange that, we think, will not contribute to the fair resolution of the dispute that arose when with 14,418,817 votes, Robredo won the close race against Marcos in 2016 by a margin of only 263,473 votes.
(Election officials, by the way, have explained that audit logs are not meant to be kept in the boxes but submitted upwards in the Commission on Elections chain of custody. Additionally, they said that if extra audit logs are needed, authentic reproductions can easily be generated.)
We hope no group is attempting to muddle the process, to discredit and keep under a cloud the status quo, the recount, and the PET’s final resolution of the protest. After the current recount is concluded, we wonder how many more recounts are needed to convince the doubters?
This calls to mind, without reference to any politician, the observation that “in da Pilipins nobody loses an election, he is just cheated.”
To restore calm and safeguard the integrity of the process, the Supreme Court acting as the PET may want to reiterate the rules and order both the Robredo and Marcos camps not to make disputable comments outside the four walls of the tribunal.
To keep the public updated, the PET’s spokesman can issue statements, brief the media and field questions on the running details of the case as often as necessary.
The manual recount covers 5,418 clustered precincts in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental chosen by Marcos to start proving his contention that Robredo cheated to win the vice presidency. The results of the recount will decide if the protest will be allowed to proceed.
Whoever wins the final protest will become president in case the incumbent, for any reason, vacates his office. It makes sense for those who can afford it to pour more billions into the fire after the staggering billions already burned in the last elections.
• Diokno boasts of budget reforms
BUDGET Secretary Ben Diokno went this week to the Tuesday Club’s informal gathering at EDSA-ShangriLa in Mandaluyong bearing good news about budget reforms under the Duterte administration.
The gathering was incidentally celebratory, according to TC chair Philippine Star Associate Editor Marichu Villanueva, as it was Diokno’s 70th birthday last March 31.
Topping Diokno’s talking points is the Budget Reform Bill that seeks to modernize the budgeting process, facilitate the funding of projects, eliminate underspending and prevent anomalies such as those linked to the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the pork barrel system under the previous administration.
The bill has been passed on third reading in the House of Representatives and is being deliberated upon in the Senate. It is expected to be ready for signing by President Duterte by May or June.
A highlight of the Budget Reform Bill is the shift from the multi-year obligational budgeting system to annual, cash-based budgeting by 2019.
Diokno reported that his Department of Budget and Management had released as early as January 78.8 percent or P2.97 trillion of the P3.78 trillion of the 2018 national budget. This efficient release of funds is unprecedented.
He said that the DBM has partnered with the Department of Science and Technology for Project DIME or “Digital Imaging for Monitoring and Evaluation.” This is a big help in monitoring high-value projects with the use of modern technology.
These projects include DPWH’s construction/improvement of access roads leading to seaports and airports, DoTr’s North-South Commuter Railway (PNR North), DSWD’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program, DepEd’s Basic Education Facilities, CHEd’s Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, DND’s AFP Modernization Program, DILG’s Local Governance Performance Management Program, DA’s Agricultural Machinery, Equipment, Facilities, and Infrastructures Program, DICT’s Free Wi-Fi Internet Access, and DA-BFAR’s National Fisheries Program.
He said the administration aims to ramp up economic growth from 7 percent in 2018 to 8 percent in 2022, pushing the country into upper-middle income status by 2022, while reducing poverty incidence from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent in 2022.
The government is investing massively in public infrastructure, he said, from 5.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2017 to 7.3 percent in 2022, and in human capital development from 8.5 percent of GDP in 2017 to 9.2 percent in 2022.
Diokno looks forward to the shift in 2019 from an obligation-based budget to annual cash-based appropriations, which limit incurring obligations and disbursing payments for goods delivered and services rendered, inspected, and accepted within the fiscal year.
Under annual cash-based appropriations, payments for contractual obligations delivered until the end of the fiscal year may be settled until the end of a three-month extended period following the end of the fiscal year.