SC orders retrieval of ballot boxes in Marcos poll protest

MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has issued a resolution creating a retrieval team to get the ballot boxes in connection to the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

In a five-page resolution signed by Clerk of Court Felipa Anama dated Aug. 8 but was released to media on Wednesday, the PET said the rules including the composition, screening and hiring of members of the Revision Committees, the creation of an Exploratory Mission or Retrieval Team as well as the compensation of those who will eventually take part in the actual revision of ballots.

PET said the team is tasked to locate and examine all ballot boxes in the contested provinces and cities in order to facilitate their retrieval and transport to the SC compound for the revision.

It also added two more areas to be used in the election protest, namely, a portion of the Fourth Floor Parking Level of the SC-Court of Appeals Multi-Purpose Building as well as a room at the back of the Division Hearing Room.

It designated the following SC employees - lawyers Mercedes Mostajo and Linuel Alindogan of the Office of the Chief Attorney as leaders, Joy Jemima Reyes and Jeffrey Raymond Atienza of the Cash Collection and Disbursement Division as Special Disbursing Officers; and Joery Gayanan and/or any official/employee to be recommended by the Office of the Administrative Services as Chief Security Officer and/or Assistant Chief Security Officer.

They will each receive a monthly compensation of PHP5,000.

The same resolution stated that each Revision Committee be composed of a coordinator who shall be a lawyer, a recorder and a representative, each from the protestant and protestee.

It also required the parties to designate their respective alternative representatives.

It also provided for PHP1,500 per clustered precinct compensation for each Revision Committee which will cover the members' compensation and supplies with the coordinator receiving a compensation of PHP780 while the recorder will be entitled to PHP480.

The remaining PHP184 will be for their supplies or materials.

The Acting Clerk of the Tribunal will screen the applicants for the position of Coordinators of the Revision Committee.

The PET issued the resolution based on what has been agreed upon during the preliminary conference last July and another conference to discuss the suggestion of both parties for the logistics, time frame and other steps to expedite the proceedings.

The Tribunal also amended its old rule which required that the coordinator must come from SC personnel as it directed the Office of the Acting Chief Administrative Officer to post the vacancies for the members of the Revision Committees and accept applications for the staffing complement.

Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, Marcos' spokesperson, welcomed the PET Resolution which finally set in motion the requirements needed to pave the way for the revision of votes, saying it is a step forward towards their quest for truth.

We cannot wait for the actual process to start because it is the only way we'll be able to ferret the truth. We have always maintained that the ballots themselves are the best evidence in any election protest. This is the reason why we have always pushed for the early revision of ballots, he said.

We have suffered many delays because the other party keeps opposing our moves to open the ballots. One year and three months have already gone by. We hope that this will expedite the process so this issue can be settles once and for all. The Filipino people deserve to know their real Vice President is, Rodriguez added.

Meanwhile, supporters of Robredo on Wednesday filed a petition before the Tribunal to reconsider its earlier decision junking their plea to accept their contribution for the payment of the balance of her counter-protest fee amounting to PHP7.4 million.

In a 13-page motion for reconsideration, the Piso Para Kay Leni led by Museo Pambata chair Cristina Lim-Yuson asked the PET to allow them to pay the rest of Robredo's counter-protest fee.

Aside from Lim-Yuson, the other petitioners are former social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman, former human rights commissioner Paulynn Sicam, former Bases Conversion and Development Authority board director Zorayda Amelia Alonzo, award-winning singer Celeste Legaspi-Gallardo and Ateneo de Manila University Press director Karina Bolasco.

The petitioners through their counsel, Purification Bartolome-Bernabe said there is a need for the PET to reverse its earlier ruling since what her clients have raised is a matter of transcendental importance.

This is a necessary exercise of the right of suffrage considering that VP Leni will be deprived of her victory, we will be deprived of her victory because she is financially disadvantaged, Bartolome-Bernabe said.

The petitioners said the earlier PET decision denied them of their right to protect their vote for Robredo.

They also said they were able to establish that they have locus standi or the ability to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support their participation in the case.

Likewise, they argued that considering the importance of the case, the Tribunal should also exercise sound discretion even if their motion for reconsideration of the earlier order should have been filed within a 10-day period from receipt of the order.

The order denying the urgent motion for leave to file and admit petition for intervention was received on August 9. Section 69 of the PET Rules provides for a 10-day period within which a motion for reconsideration may be filed. In computing a period, the first day shall be excluded, and the last included. Following this rule, we count from August 10 and 10 days therefrom is August 19 but this date falls on a Saturday. In addition, the next working day is Monday, August 21, which is also a holiday, the petition stated.

Marcos filed the protest on June 29 last year, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May also year. He sought annulment of about a million votes cast in three provinces - Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results in a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities.

In his preliminary conference brief, Marcos also sought the recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also filed a counter-protest questioning the results in over 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.

But the tribunal, in a ruling earlier this year, junked Robredo's plea and proceeded with the case after finding of sufficiency in form and substance in the protest.

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

Source: Philippine News Agency