Robredo camp: Marcos must pay P2-B for maintenance of VCMs used in 2016 polls

MANILA-- Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday filed an omnibus motion before the Supreme Court (SC) sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) stating that former senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos should pay the amount of PHP2.08 billion amount for the maintenance of Vote Counting Machines (VCM)s.

Robredo's lawyers, Romulo P. Macalintal and Maria Bernadette Sardillo, said that Marcos must shoulder any amount that the Commissions on Elections (Comelec) may be required to pay on account of his election protest.

"Protestee Robredo seeks clarification on who will be liable for the PHP2,078,304,255.76, representing the cost of the VCMs leased and used during the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections," read the nine-page manifestation file before in SC.

Clarifying whether protestant Marcos will be held liable for the monthly expense incurred by the Commission on Elections in its Sta. Rosa, Laguna Warehouse. Directing the Commission on Elections to clarify whether protestant Marcos on account of this Election Protest will be held liable for the PhP 2,078,304,255.76 under the Automated Election System (AES) Contracts, it added.

As early as November 2016, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) directed COMELEC to itemize the costs it may be required to pay under its automated election contracts.

COMELEC, through the Office of the Solicitor General, replied that the costs could reach PHP2.08 billion. This is because of the non-turn-over of 97,365 voting counting machines (VCMs) on or before December 1, 2016.

It should be recalled that Marcos asked for the annulment of elections and revision of votes in 39,221 clustered precincts but also maintained that the 2016 national and local elections were null and void.

And on at least two occasions, in August 2016 and September 2016, Marcos opposed the closure and stripping activities on the VCMs scheduled by Comelec

And up to now, Marcos maintains that he wants the VCMs examined.

"Dahil sa ganitong kaganapan, linawin sana ng Comelec kung si Marcos nga ba ang magbabayad ng PHP2.08 bilyon," Macalintal added.

Meanwhile, Macalintal said that Comelec is also incurring at least PHP5.62 million per month for the lease of a warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna and related expenses.

This was disclosed by COMELEC pursuant to the Resolution issued by the PET on April 18, 2017. Robredo was notified by the Office of the Solicitor General on June 8, 2017.

"If only to avoid confusion on who will be liable for these amounts, we are constrained to seek a clarification," Macalintal explained.

The Tribunal has set the preliminary conference on the electoral and counter-electoral protest on July 11 at 2 p.m.

Last June 16, The PET granted the urgent motion filed by Marcos to designate at least three hearing officers who will assist the Tribunal during the preliminary conference on his election protest against Robredo.

In a six-page resolution signed by Felipa B. Anama, Clerk of Tribunal, dated June 14, 2017 but was released to media on Friday, PET appointed retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose C. Vitug as the chairperson of the panel of commissioners. His members are Atty. Angelito C. Imperio and Atty. Irene Ragodon-Guevarra.

The commissioners shall decide unanimously to every extent possible, provided that in the event of failure to reach a(n) unanimous decision, the majority decision shall prevail, the PET resolution stated.

The panel of commissioners, the PET said, shall assist in the reception of evidence pursuant to Rule 55 to 62 of the PET rules.

Under the rules, the panel shall set the date for the reception of evidence of all the parties involved in the protest and counter-protest.

The same panel shall receive the affidavits of witnesses and hear their direct testimonies of witnesses as well as their cross, re-direct and re-cross examination. The hearing commissioners also has the authority to rule on the objects made in the course of the cross-examination subject to review by the PET.

After the hearing, the hearing commissioners shall submit all the evidence presented as well as the transcripts of the proceedings before the PET.

The PET said the chairperson shall receive a compensation of PHP15,000 per day of hearing or service while the members shall receive a PHP10,000 per day of hearing or service.

Marcos earlier said he decided to file the electoral protest due to the series of frauds, anomalies and irregularities that marred the May 9 elections and that such activities made sure he would lose to Robredo, the vice presidential candidate of the administration's Liberal Party.

Robredo won the 2016 vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes.

Source: Philippines News Agency