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Protest will severely test PET (SC)

FORMER Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. filed on June 29 an election protest with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) against Vice President Leni Robredo, disputing her victory in the May 9, 2016, election. Last July 12, the PET – which is composed of all 15 justices of the Supreme Court – directed Robredo to answer the protest.

This is the second vice-presidential election to be protested. The first was the election of Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2010 in a petition filed by Mar Roxas, questioning the high incidence of null votes – around 2.6 million – along with allegedly misread votes in precincts nationwide. Binay had been declared winner in that election by a margin of 727,084 votes – 14,645,574 votes for Binay against 13,918,490 for Roxas.

Roxas asked for a forensic examination of the software used in the 2010 elections. But he failed to file a bond or to deposit cash to answer for the payment of all expenses and costs incidental to the case. It thus never progressed beyond the pre-trial stage and when Roxas filed his certificate of candidacy for president in the 2016 election, he was deemed to have withdrawn his protest against Binay.

All this is recalled with the election protest filed by Marcos against Robredo, who was declared winner in this year’s vice-presidential election with 14,418,817 votes, a margin of only 263,473 over the next in line, Marcos, who had 14,155,344 votes.

Marcos challenged the results in 39,221 clustered precincts in 25 provinces and five cities. He charged “massive electoral frauds, anomalies, and irregularities, such as terrorism, violence, force, threats, intimidation, pre-shading of ballots, vote-buying, substitution of votes, flying voters, pre-loaded SD cards, misreading of ballots; unexplained, irregular, and improper rejection of ballots, malfunctioning of VCMs, and abnormally high unaccounted votes/undervotes for the position of vice president….”

He asked that PET compel the Commission on Elections, city and municipal treasurers, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Smartmatic, to preserve the integrity and safety of all ballot boxes and their contents, along with the lists of voters. He asked that the order also cover the other partners of Comelec in the election, including telecom companies and data centers.

Former Senator Marcos appears to be ready with so many affidavits and other documents to support his claim. He may also be ready to come up with the required bond or cash deposit – which was what held back the Roxas protest against Binay in 2010. This 2016 protest case will severely test the capacity of the PET – which, we must not forget, is really the Supreme Court with its already heavy load of very critical cases of national importance.