MANILA – After some delays, the preliminary conference went under way Tuesday on the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and the counter-protest by Vice President Leni Robredo.
The Supreme Court deems it a historic case because it is the first time an electoral protest for the position of vice president has reached the preliminary conference stage. This means that the case will proceed with dispatch.
Marcos was present at the preliminary conference, but Robredo was absent. She was represented by her lawyer Atty Romulo Macalintal.
As the preliminary conference was being held, Marcos’ supporters gathered outside the SC. Some of them had stayed overnight there, having arrived Monday night, to show their support for the former senator.
Marcos told reporters, “The tribunal has already made anticipatory moves to revision. Pinakita na sa amin ang gym para sa revision. Pinasukat na ang mga lugar at mesa na ilalagay. Nagsimula na ang proseso. Handa na ang tribunal sa [They have shown us the gym for revision; and told us to measure the spaces for the tables. The process has begun. The tribunal is all set for the] main event.”
Marcos’ camp predicts that by end of October. the ballot boxes may be collected from the three selected provinces.
Based on the rules, the manual recount and judicial revisions must be done daily, from 8am till noontime, and then from 1pm to 4:30pm.
Parties are now awaiting the preliminary conference order before the start of the pilot manual recount and judicial revisions.
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal consisting of the SC justices has already selected the venue where the revision will be done: the Court of Appeals gymnasium.
Marcos’ camp said the judicial revisions for the ballots in the three pilot areas will be carried out there. In a judicial revision, the tribunal members will examine whether ballots are tampered and a recount will be conducted.
100 revision committees
To speed up the process, Marcos’ camp suggested the formation of 100 revision committees, and the setting of a target for examining two ballot boxes each day.
Each issue will be resolved at the committee level before being raised to the panel of hearing commissioners.
This stage is deemed crucial because if fraud cannot be proven in the pilot areas, the PET may proceed to throw out the protest.
Marcos earlier picked as pilot areas the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental. Interestingly, Camarines Sur is Robredo’s home province.
Robredo picked as pilot areas Sulu, North Cotabato and Capiz.
At the preliminary conference on Tuesday, meanwhile, the PET released guidelines for the recount and judicial revisions and gave both camps five days to comment on this.
Parties also agreed to limit to three the number of witnesses for each clustered precinct. There are more than 39,000 clustered precincts that Marcos has questioned; while Robredo cited 8,000.
Marcos, meanwhile, has paid the balance of P30 million to PET to cover the protest fee. He said he raised the sum from donations and the proceeds of properties that were sold. He had earlier paid P36 million.
Robredo, meanwhile, has until Friday to pay the P7-million second installment of her protest fee. Robredo’s camp sought an extension of the deadline, which PET granted.
‘Presidential race can’t be de-linked from VP’
Robredo’s lawyer Atty. Beng Sardillo, meanwhile, quoted one justice as saying the results of the VP race cannot be “surgically removed” or separated from the results for the president.
There is only one certificate of canvass for the posts of President and VP, she noted. “Kung sasabihin mo na di mapagkakatiwalaan ang COC, ibig sabihin pati ang Presidente dinaya at mababakante ang pwesto [If you say the COC cannot be trusted, that means there was cheating in the post for President as well and the post will be vacated].”