POSTSCRIPT / November 12, 2020 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Trump an amateur beside Bongbong

NEW YORK – Despite his setback at the polls, President Trump is still the most powerful man in the USA. Yet he seems unable to influence the courts into treating more kindly the Republican submissions filed in critical states to ensure his reelection.

Against the backdrop of Democratic bet Joe Biden’s being widely accepted as the presumptive president-elect, a recap published by TIME on Saturday showed that cases filed by Trump’s camp to recover lost ground have been mostly faltering.

The majority of the dozen or so lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania (with 20 electoral votes), Georgia (16 votes), Michigan (16) and Nevada (6), the states where, TIME said, “either Biden’s margin of victory is relatively slim, or where a winner has yet to be called”.

Biden’s total of 290 votes (more than the 270 majority electoral votes needed to win) is merely a count of the news media racing to be the first to announce a winner. That number may be more credible than a Pulse Asia opinion survey report, but it is unofficial.

What is Trump doing about his garnering only 214 electoral votes to Biden’s 290? When news outlets announced Biden’s “victory” around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Trump was reportedly chasing another scorecard at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia.

His battery of lawyers, meantime, have been arguing in court to pump life into their mostly lame allegations of poll fraud and of Trump’s election having been stolen, how and by whom they have not proved yet.

Experts quoted by media outfits said many of the lawsuits have been dismissed for lack of merit. The ones that have gained some traction were described as unlikely to change the outcome of the presidential race.

We could be mistaken, though, in thinking that Trump is not flexing enough muscles. His operators are reportedly moving on multiple fronts to invalidate mail-in ballots (largely for Biden) and discredit the motives of election officials in states where Trump lost or is losing.

We have been intrigued by State Secretary Michael Pompeo’s remark, when asked Tuesday about the coming turnover, that there will be a smooth transition all right but “to a second Trump administration.”

Trump’s refusal to concede reminds us of our own ex-senator Bongbong Marcos who ran for vice president way back in 2016 and lost.

Never running out of reasons and resources, Marcos is asking the Supreme Court permission to go fishing in Mindanao for votes to overcome the 263,473-vote winning lead of Vice President Leni Robredo.

Duterte, 75, looks tired enough to want to retire before his term ends. But Marcos is not yet positioned as vice president for a swift succession, courtesy of a favorable decision of the tribunal where 12 of the 15 members are Duterte appointees.

Marcos’ dogged drive to win his case before the Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal makes a protesting Trump look like a rank amateur in the tricky game of reversing electoral debacles.

 PET must resolve Marcos protest now

WE agree with Bongbong Marcos that his four-year-old protest languishing in the Supreme Court/PET should be resolved immediately. (Kung puede lang, before Christmas!) The marathon case has dragged on too long.

If it wants, the SC/PET can render a final ruling enforcing its long-standing Rule 65 which says in brief that if the protestant fails to make a vote recovery in the three pilot areas of his choice and prove his case, the protest may be dismissed.

The “initial determination” under Rule 65, similar to preliminary investigations by prosecutors, is meant to filter out nuisance protests or fishing expeditions by losers who have no good reason, but ample resources, to cast around for evidence to prop up a chancy complaint.

Out of the 25 provinces on his protest list, Marcos was directed to choose three where the worse cheating occurred. He chose Iloilo, Negros Occidental, and Camarines Sur (his rival Leni Robredo’s home ground).

After the recount under the eagle eyes of his watchers, however, the 263,473-vote lead of Robredo even grew by some 15,000 votes.

Marcos must have been simply guessing when he alleged, without submitting evidence, that Robredo cheated him. That may be why he himself was surprised to lose the recount.

To salvage that crushing defeat, Marcos begged the SC/PET to annul the votes in some places in Mindanao where he heard there was election fraud in 2016. He must have reckoned that if all votes there were nullified, Robredo’s lead nationwide would be wiped out (but including votes there for Duterte, as collateral damage!).

Will Marcos’ fishing, if allowed, be over before Duterte’s term ends? After the PET has given him all the rope he wants, Robredo must still be given, by right, a similar chance to prove her counter-protest. Another four years?

Now comes Solicitor-General Jose Calida, who is not a party to the case nor a friend of the court but reportedly a Marcos partisan, asking for the inhibition of Associate Justice Marvic MVF Leonen as the justice in charge of the case. Marcos similarly asked earlier for his removal.

The duo said Leonen is biased as reflected in his opinions in other Marcos cases. Imagine the confusion if a judge or justice must be disqualified for his judgment or opinion expressed in earlier cases involving family members of one of the parties in a case before him.

Such reckless scatter-gun inhibition would hit even Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and other justices who have expressed some opinion, pro or con, on the Marcoses. Will Calida want them out also?

Tama na! The case has dragged too long. Apply Rule 65 and be done with it. Maawa na kayo sa bayan!

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 12, 2020)

* * *

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