POSTSCRIPT / October 6, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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The people can act as jury in PET case

THE CITIZENS waiting outside the Supreme Court as a kind of “People’s Jury” need to be told quickly the facts of the vote recount in the three pilot provinces chosen by the loser protesting the 2016 election of Vice President Leni Robredo.

The Vice Presidency, the second top Executive post in the land, is too important to be left to the sole discretion of 15 appointed members of the Supreme Court acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

The PET proceeding does not involve citizens directly, but as voters they are effectively an extended jury in this non-criminal case. As such, they must know the results of the “initial determination” recount so they can weigh properly the action being taken on the protest of ex-Sen. Bongbong Marcos.

It is best to disclose without further delay whatever is the outcome of the recount in the three pilot areas selected by the protestant under PET Rule 65. The voters themselves will know how to appreciate the bare numbers.

Resorting to legal contortions to justify disregarding the long-standing Rule 65 – with its provision for dismissing a protest when the recount fails to show any significant recovery of votes in the pilot areas – will be highly suspect.

The Marcos vs Robredo case will end where the numbers (that must reflect the popular vote and not the majority vote of 15 members of a tribunal) will lead the People’s Jury. Publish the score and let the chips fall wherever.

Like its controversial Quo Warranto decision that led to the ouster last year from the tribunal of its erstwhile member Maria Lourdes Sereno, the SC’s handling of the Marcos protest threatens to shake the Bersamin Court.

A sample of social media comments pointing this out was this tweet of Yoly Villanueva-Ong @yolyong on Oct. 3: “CJ Bersamin, do the right thing and make your grandchildren proud. Rule 65 is very clear and cannot be twisted like you did quo warranto. You found no evidence of cheating. VPL is the TRUE WINNER AND BBM LOST. You can’t take BBM’s “GIFTS” to the grave. FIX YOUR LEGACY INSTEAD.”

Will Bersamin leave the judiciary which he has served with distinction for more than 30 years with such difficult issues hanging?

Interviewed by the media on Thursday about reports that the tribunal was likely to deliver to Marcos a first-round win in his protest by pushing aside Rule 65, and thus avoiding the early dismissal of the protest or delaying its final resolution, Bersamin said:

“You ask the columnist what her or his basis. I cannot confirm or deny that because he must know more than I do. That’s the bad part about it. There is no definite voting yet or anything that happened in that particular case.”

We’re not sure if the Chief Justice was referring to this columnist. Quoting sources, we said in this space Tuesday:

“Our information is that ‘it’s 8-6 in favor of Marcos’ – that is, with the PET putting aside its Rule 65 for an ‘initial determination’ test in three pilot provinces and allowing a continuation of the recount in the remaining 22 provinces and five highly urbanized cities protested by him.”

ABS-CBN News also reported that Bersamin “could not confirm if the deliberation and the vote on the protest would take place on Tuesday, Oct. 8.” We don’t know where the Oct. 8 date for a supposed PET voting came from.

In this space Tuesday, we just said that before Bersamin retires on Oct. 18 at age 70, the SC/PET “is likely to deliver to (Marcos) a first-round win in his election protest.” “First-round win” means that his protest will not be dismissed at this first stage as provided in Rule 65.

Regarding any bearing that his retirement has on the timing of the resolution of the issues in the recount/revision report submitted by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, PET member in charge of the process, Bersamin said he did not know:

“My retirement does not demand from the other justices that we should act on any kind of case. (The Supreme Court) is bigger than any single justice. I do not like to say na my retirement has no value, but I would also like to say that we must respect the opinion of 14 others. The one who is retiring is only one of 15 so unimportant ‘yan.”

He raised the possibility that the PET may not adopt the Caguioa report. He said: “When a report is issued, it does not necessarily mean that we have already to consider that report, approve it, adopt it, etc.… It’s not automatic, otherwise we will not be a deliberative body, a collegial body.”

Whatever the PET decides to do with Caguioa’s report, it may be wise for the tribunal not to prolong the dispute that has been adding fuel to divisive partisan talk, including questions in social media if some persons in the tribunal are counting votes or money.

 Playschool-gym opens at Clark

THE HAPPY Headstart Playschool and Playgym has opened at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga, offering non-traditional learning methods for children of various age groups.

Its owner Chie Mayrina-Angeles said their programs include: “Teeny Tikes” (14-22 months old), visual feast, musical treat, tactile play and obstacle course or adventure play; “Play and Learn” (2-3 years old), integrated free play, music and movement, art, sensory play and motor activities; and “Path to School Readiness” (3-4 years), developing confidence, curiosity and communication skills.

Angeles assured parents of proper child care and quality learning experiences for their kids. The Happy Headstart in Clark is at W-101 One West Aeropark Bldg. More info: 09190038803.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 6, 2019)

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