POSTSCRIPT / October 10, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Overlooked issues in VP poll dispute

BEFORE the Supreme Court is tempted to sail beyond the three agreed pilot provinces to fish for evidence that Vice President Leni Robredo cheated ex-senator Bongbong Marcos in the 2016 election, it may help to refocus on some basic points.

To begin with, there is a presumption of regularity in the election and proclamation of Robredo, which is why the Presidential Electoral Tribunal consisting of the Supreme Court justices has Rule 65 precisely to prevent what might look like a fishing expedition.

The rule helps preclude the possibility of a losing candidate with vast resources protesting the results in a staggering number of precincts in the hope that enough votes would be recovered as the recount progresses to overcome the lead of the proclaimed winner.

The application of Rule 65 of the PET is similar to the preliminary investigation of criminal complaints by prosecutors to determine if there is probable cause, if there is a case worth pursuing.

Meantime, this non-lawyer begs to disturb the robed members of the tribunal, from whatever they are counting in their sanctum sanctorum, with some basic questions we have raised on Twitter:

* Is Marcos saying that Robredo cheated just him or all the VP candidates? If it was all of them, why did the others accept the election results? If only Marcos was cheated, was he able to show in the “initial determination” recount and revision of ballots that he was the intended victim?

* This assumes there was indeed cheating, which has not been proved. Assuming there was, who cheated whom? In a multiplayer race, unless he has convincing proof, a loser cannot simply point to the winner as the cheat and place the costly burden of proving innocence on that winner.

* The Vice President was elected together with the President on the same ballots scanned by the same vote-counting machines in the same automated process. If the election of the President is technically beyond question, that of the Vice President is presumed to be equally so.

* Selection of the Vice President, the second top Executive in the land, is too important to be removed from the rightful hands of the citizen-voters and transferred in effect to the sole discretion of Supreme Court members appointed by the President.

Common sense, if not simple fairness, dictates that the post-proclamation possibility of the election being hijacked through the marshaling of massive resources should not be allowed.

That is why there is Rule 65 telling a protestant to pick three pilot provinces (from the total area he is disputing) where he claims he was the victim of the worst cheating.

Only substantial vote recovery of lost or stolen votes in his chosen sample provinces — Iloilo, Negros Occidental, and Camarines Sur in this case — could show probable cause and justify the revision of more ballots outside the pilot areas.

The report on the 18-month-long revision of ballots in 5,415 clustered precincts in those provinces selected by Marcos himself was submitted to the tribunal on Sept. 9 by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, PET member in charge of the recount.

The “People’s Jury” outside the tribunal has been waiting for the recount results. If there was substantial recovery of votes, revising more ballots in the remaining 22 provinces and five cities could follow. But if there was no such recovery, the protest would be dismissed.

It should be simple enough reading the numbers and making a conclusion, but for still murky reasons, the PET again failed Tuesday to decipher (or accept?) the scores submitted to it 30 days ago by Caguioa.

Kaya tuloy we wonder if an operator is busy massaging the numbers or attempting a transfusion to pump life back into a comatose case.

As we wait with the extended “People’s Jury,” we are beginning to feel that it may be the Bersamin Court that is on trial in this Marcos vs Robredo poll dispute.

Sources assure us, however, that before Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin retires on Oct. 18 at age 70, he will see to it that a resolution is rolled out to catch the last fishing boat sailing out Tuesday, Oct. 15.

 Panelo et al. need traffic immersion

ASIDE from Russia, where has presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo been? Like many other officials driven to their offices in air-conditioned comfort, he is wondering out loud what mass transport crisis we plain folk are complaining about.

President Duterte should order all officials in the Executive department from bureau director up, including himself to set the example, to go to work by public transportation at least two days a week without their aides.

Officials of the Congress and the Judiciary should also join commuters periodically and work out their own traffic immersion program — to wake up to the hellish pit where more than 10 million residents in the national capital move about.

The latest research report of Deutsche Bank, btw, ranks Manila as third worst city in the world to live in. Many of its inhabitants will disagree — it should be rated No. 1.

Asked about the mass transport crisis strangling the national capital, Panelo wondered what the problem was: “Ang nakikita ko lang traffic… May transportation naman, nakakasakay naman tayo lahat.” That ranks with the “Buhay pa naman kayo, di ba?” of Mar Roxas to Yolanda typhoon victims.

Duterte’s spokesman offered a simple solution to those finding it hard to catch a ride and arrive on time. All one has to do, the Palace genius suggested, is start out early!

Someone shrieked in Tagalog: “Put*ng*na! I wake up 5:30, rush through my bath, skip almusal, dash to the street, scramble for a ride, sweat it out on the packed bus crawling through traffic torture, at sa awa ng dios, arrive past 9 a.m. at work and lose an hour’s pay. In the evening it’s the same put*ng*na, only it’s going in the opposite direction.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 10, 2019)

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