POSTSCRIPT / October 17, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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SC aiding Marcos fishing expedition

IT IS amazing that the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal seems to be allowing itself to be used by ex-senator Bongbong Marcos in fishing for evidence that he was cheated by Vice President Leni Robredo in the 2016 elections.

The recount and revision of ballots, as provided under the PET’s Rule 65, in the three pilot provinces picked by Marcos himself as the areas with the worst cheating has yielded no substantial recovery of lost or stolen votes. On the contrary, the recount gave Robredo some 15,000 additional votes.

This means that when Marcos filed his protest, either he was not sure how/where he was cheated and was just guessing – or the recount/revision of the ballots in his pilot areas (Negros Oriental, Iloilo and Camarines Sur) was rigged under his very nose and under the PET’s supervision.

A fishing expedition is a kind of “Protest now, Prove later” trip. Eleven SC magistrates including Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin voted to go fishing with Marcos, but Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Benjamin Caguioa dissented and voted to dismiss the protest based on Rule 65.

With the blessings of the Bersamin Court, Marcos now wants to cast his fishing net in other areas, this time in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in the hope of catching any indication or proof that he was cheated there three years ago — and therefore nationwide.

Assuming he stumbles on signs of cheating or fraud there, he still has to prove that it was Robredo who committed it and against Marcos specifically. To mete out penalty, the crime will have to be pinned on who did it, not sprayed indiscriminately scatter-gun style.

The “initial determination” stage in the three pilot provinces under Rule 65 is meant to filter out nuisance protests or fishing expeditions by losers who may have no good reason but enough resources to cast around for evidence to prop up a chancy complaint.

The SC/PET en banc ordered Tuesday that the official report on the recount/revision in the pilot areas be given to the two parties and for them to comment on the report within 20 days.

The contending camps were also directed to comment on a Marcos petition to subject to technical examination the 2016 election records in the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

If no evidence is unearthed that Robredo cheated Marcos in those ARMM areas, will the protestant be allowed to continue widening his fishing area until he is able to catch enough votes to overturn the 263,473-vote lead that Robredo enjoyed when proclaimed in 2016?

In other words, how long will the venerable Supreme Court be willing to go fishing with Marcos? While resources last?

 Listen to this voice from ARMM

RELATED to the coming review of ARMM poll records per petition of Marcos, we came upon this Facebook post of Zia Alonto Adiong, former ARMM assemblyman and now member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, who annotated on TV the Marawi Crisis of 2017:

“Then Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Leni Robredo squeezed her Marawi/Lanao del Sur political rally into her full campaign schedules to win over voters to her side. We couldn’t expect less from a candidate running for a national office, especially if one is up against a well-known political name and is practically fighting an uphill battle.

“She was effective in doing exactly that. She introduced herself directly to the locals, appealed to them, shook hands and went on with her sorties in Marawi and other areas in the province alone. Yes, alone. No other national candidates came with her. Yes, she was the only Vice Presidential candidate who took time to visit Marawi.

“As a result of that, people were drawn to her and naturally she got the votes she needed and won by a landslide. So, to question the result of her winning in Lanao del Sur is like skipping an event and then fuming about why you weren’t recognized in the first place.

“And to insist on the argument that other candidates should have won in Lanao del Sur besides her despite a sheer lack of interest displayed by her opponents to visit the area and campaign is, to me, the most preposterous assertion any politician, not to mention one who belongs to a political clan and a veteran politician at that, could claim.

“It’s as simple as that. It’s basic. And because she was effective in winning over votes as a result of what she did during her campaign in our province you are now faulting us? Do we really need to make this case complicated?”

 BBM wants some ARMM votes cut?

IN QUESTIONING poll results in the ARMM, Marcos may have been emboldened by an earlier protest of ex-Sulu Vice Gov. Abdusakur Tan against former ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman contesting the results of the 2016 gubernatorial race.

Tan claimed he lost because of widespread fraud and irregularities, getting only 345,280 votes against Hataman’s 875,200. The Commission on Elections has not resolved the dispute.

Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia, head of the body’s second division, ordered a technical examination of the voters’ records in the 127 barangays under protest. Probers reportedly found 40,528 signatures and 3,295 thumbprints on the voters’ list did not match those in the registry.

Robredo won 477,985 votes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao against Marcos’ 169,160. If her votes were nullified, her 263,473 lead in the national count would be wiped out.

Interestingly, since President Duterte and Robredo were elected on the same ballots scanned by the same vote-counting machines, how will nullification of the disputed votes impact on the legitimacy of the President’s election?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 17, 2019)

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