POSTSCRIPT / September 29, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Winnow PR chaff from SC/PET grain

THINK about it: President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo were elected together on the same ballots scanned by the same vote-counting machines. Questioning the election of one could raise technical issues on the election of the other.

The only difference is that while Robredo’s election was protested by ex-Sen. Bongbong Marcos, nobody questioned Duterte’s victory. Unlike in the United States where the president and the vice president are elected as a team, the two top officials in the Philippines are not.

As the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, prepares to rule on the revision of the ballots in the Marcos protest, there is a bumper crop of PR and disinformation materials being planted in media.

To cut short the season of planting false information, the SC/PET should speed up the announcement of the results of the “initial determination” count in the three pilot provinces chosen by the protestant under its Rule 65.

It is just a matter of accepting the revision report on the pilot provinces submitted by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, PET member in charge of the procedure – unless the tribunal is now questioning the integrity of the revision/recount.

Wherever the pilot count done under Rule 65 will lead the protest, let it be – so Marcos and Robredo and their camp followers can go back to their normal lives and the divided nation can heal and move to more a more positive outlook.

We saw yesterday on Twitter a post of Emil Maranon III that was a Q&A on the Marcos-Robredo case. He said he made it to summarize the answers to most frequent queries on the dispute. Here it is (slightly edited to fit space):

1. What’s the status of the vice presidential election protest in the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court, as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, is expected to rule soon on the three pilot provinces of Bongbong Marcos, namely Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental and Iloilo. Under Rule 65 of the PET, if the recount in three pilot provinces yields no “substantial” recovery in favor of Marcos, it will be terminated, the ballot boxes from the remaining protested provinces will no longer be opened, and the protest will be dismissed.

2. Who picked Marcos’ pilot provinces?

Following PET’s rules, protestant Marcos picked the three provinces to be revised first. The legal assumption is that these provinces “best exemplify” his allegations of electoral fraud. That means that if none is found in those provinces, none is expected to be found in the remaining precincts that he did not pick. His case will rise and fall on his three chosen provinces.

3. What is the result of the recount?

Based on our record of the recount, PET’s manual recount matched the Election Day count which became the basis of Robredo’s proclamation. No discrepancy was found during the PET’s audit of the ballots. There was, however, an initial reduction in Robredo’s votes due to the application of the wrong threshold (50 percent shading of the oval instead of the correct 25 percent). The numbers later reconciled when the PET corrected itself and applied the 25-percent threshold.

4. If the machine counted correctly, why is Robredo gaining 19,000 votes?

These are the “recoveries” that will be added to Robredo’s total votes. The 19,000 additional votes were recovered from ballots earlier rejected by the Vote Counting Machine on Election Day from those shaded less than the 25-percent threshold, but now counted following the “intent (of the voter) rule.” Those recoveries are expected as Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental are known Robredo bailiwicks. Marcos, however, also recovered some votes from the three provinces, reducing Robredo’s recoveries but still leaving her with 15,000 gains.

5. So what do we expect to happen?

With the recount results, it is clear that Marcos has shown no sufficient recovery to justify the continuation of the revision. Robredo even gained 15,000 more votes. Under Rule 65, if it will be followed, the dismissal of Marcos’ protest is now mandatory. Any ruling other than outright dismissal would have no legal basis.

 US ban urged on De Lima’s ‘oppressors’

A MOVE by a US Senate committee to ban the entry into the US of Philippine officials “involved in the politically motivated imprisonment” of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima drew varied reactions in Manila this week.

The ban is included in an amendment approved days ago by the Senate appropriations committee to the 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.

Under a provision titled “Prohibition on Entry,” the US Secretary of State “shall apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of… Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”

The move came to light Friday when US Sen. Richard Durbin welcomed on Twitter the committee’s approval of the amendment he had proposed with Sen. Patrick Leahy. Durbin has called on the Philippine government to release De Lima through a resolution he earlier filed with four US senators.

The ban would also apply to other personalities in Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia perceived by the State department as maltreating or persecuting American citizens in those countries.

Many Philippines officials saw the threatened ban as undue interference in domestic affairs, but sympathizers and party mates of De Lima, such as Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Liberal Party president, welcomed it.

There was speculation in social media if Sen. Manny Pacquiao will still be able to box in Las Vegas, or if the prohibition will cover President Duterte, a nemesis of De Lima who has crossed the President with her human rights investigations.

It is unlikely that Duterte, a head of government who claims President Trump for a friend, will be banned. In fact, a state visit to Washington is reportedly being prepared.

We think, however, that a Duterte visit is not likely before the 2020 US election. His showing up at the White House with his human rights baggage may hurt Trump’s reelection bid.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 29, 2019)

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