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SC holds prelim conference on Marcos-Robredo poll protest

By REY G. PANALIGAN

The scheduled preliminary conference on the protest and counter-protest in the 2016 vice presidential election was held yesterday with the camps of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo facing each other for the first time before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

It was held in a closed-door session with members of the Supreme Court, acting as PET. It formally commenced the proceedings on the protest and counter-protest that were filed in June and in August last year, respectively.

In a press briefing after the conference, Marcos expressed his gratitude that the PET has formally started the proceedings on his protest.

“What is clear with the justices is that they are very interested in proceeding to the arguments and finally to the revision of the counting of votes. We are thankful that the justices are also interested on how to speed up the process so that our people will really know the real count of votes,” he said.

But his lawyer, George Garcia, said the camp of Robredo tried to delay the process by raising issues that should have not been part of the case. He did not give details on the issues.

“Good thing the tribunal really wanted to open the ballot boxes because they really wanted to find out the truth,” Garcia said.

Robredo’s lawyer Maria Bernadette Sardillo told journalists in an interview that the SC justices raised questions during the hearing but have not resolved yet the pending motions earlier filed by both camps.

Sardillo said some justices expressed concerns on the feasibility and practicability of Marcos’ plea for the recount and revision of voting results.

“One of the justices said it would be logistically hard for the tribunal to conduct the recount,” she said.

She cited a comment by one of the justices who expressed the difficulty of reexamining the results for the vice presidential post without considering their implications in the other positions like that of the President.

At the same time, Sardillo said there was a proposal to limit the number of witnesses to only three each precincts to expedite the proceedings.

The preliminary conference would determine, among other things, stipulations or admissions of facts and documents to avoid unnecessary proof, the simplification of the issues, the limitation of the number of witnesses, the most expeditious manner for the retrieval of ballot boxes containing the ballots, election returns, certificates of canvass, and other election documents involved in the case.

Meanwhile, Marcos deposited with the PET yesterday P30.2 million in two checks as balance for his deposit in his electoral protest covering 39,221 clustered precincts or a total of 132,446 precincts.

Earlier, he had paid P36.023 million of the P66.223 million required by the PET.

Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential election.

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