SC upholds integrity of 2016 polls, junks Marcos’ motion

THE Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the authenticity of the Automated Election System (AES) in the 2016 elections, dismissing former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s first cause of action in his poll protest against Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo.

In his first cause of action, Marcos called on the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to declare all the certificates of canvass used to proclaim Robredo’s victory as “authentic.”

Questioning the “flawed” AES, the former senator also claimed that the Smartmatic vote-counting machines (VCM) used for the automated polls lack “demonstrated capability.”

But in a resolution dated August 29, the high court junked Marcos’ first cause of action, deeming the hope to nullify the integrity of the 2016 polls as “meaningless and pointless.”

“Allowing the First Cause of Action to continue would be an exercise in futility and would have no practical effect,” the PET said in its decision made public on Tuesday, September 5.

“Even if [the] protestant succeeds in proving his first cause of action, this will not mean that he has already won the position of vice president as this can only be determined by a manual recount of all votes in all precincts,” it added.

Several SC justices previously expressed apprehension over the possibility that the former senator’s electoral protest may put the entire nation’s election result last year into question.

In June 2016, Marcos filed an electoral protest against Robredo before the SC after she won the seat only by a slim margin. Robredo won the position by only around 263,000 votes more than Marcos.

Marcos filed three causes of action in his protest. In his second cause of action, the former senator asked for the manual recount of votes in 36,465 clustered precincts in 22 provinces and five cities.

Areas include Cebu, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Masbate, Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte, Bukidnon, Iloilo, Bohol, Quezon, Batangas, Western Samar, Misamis Oriental, Camarines Sur, 2nd District of Northern Samar, Palawan, Sibugay, Misamis Occidental, Pangasinan, Isabela, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City and Zamboanga City.

In his third cause of action, Marcos also sought the nullification of the vice presidential votes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao due to alleged occurrence of “traditional” modes of cheating, such as vote buying, pre-shading, intimidation and failure of elections, among others.

The PET, in its resolution, gave Marcos five non-extendible days to provide at least three witnesses per clustered precincts on the three questioned provinces.

“The Tribunal reiterates its directive to protestant [Marcos] to submit a new list of witnesses for the third cause of action by limiting the number of witnesses to three per clustered precinct and already identifying the concerned clustered precinct, within non-extendible period of five days from receipt,” the PET said.

“Protestant’s failure to do so will be deemed a waiver of his right to name and identify his witnesses and to present them during the reception of evidence,” it added.

In a statement, Marcos’ camp said it respects the PET’s decision.

“We respect the Tribunal’s decision and we will abide by it. We are glad that the Tribunal share in our desire to expedite the disposition of this case the soonest possible time in interest of all the Filipino people especially those whose votes were not counted,” said Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, spokesman of Marcos.

Rodriguez, however, added that they preferred if the PET probed into the alleged anomalies of the automated election system.

“(W)e have the case exactly where we wanted it to be, the conduct of manual recount and judicial revision and annulment of election result in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan,” he said.

Robredo’s camp, meanwhile, welcomed the PET’s ruling.

“The ruling’s effect is that the integrity and credibility of the automated election system has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” Atty. Romulo Macalintal, lead counsel for Robredo, said in a statement.

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