“IF upon examination of such ballots and proof, and after making reasonable allowances, the tribunal is convinced that, taking all circumstances into account, the protestant or counter-protestant, will most probably fail to make out his case, the protest may forthwith be dismissed.”
This is what Rule 65 used by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) says. And it is clear that the tribunal “may” dismiss a protest, implying that it can decide otherwise. In law, there is an ocean of difference between “may” and “shall.” The latter is used for a mandatory directive, while the former applies when an action is merely an option.
It is simply odd that people who should know their law, including Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, appear to imply that the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, has no other option but to dismiss the case and uphold Rule 65.
In fact, the PET decided not to dismiss outright the protest filed against Robredo by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Eleven of the 14 justices voted to release the results of the recount for the pilot provinces to protestant Marcos and protestee Robredo and required them to submit their comments. In addition, Marcos and Robredo were also required to submit their memorandums on “the various issues relating to the jurisdiction and other matters relating to the third cause of action, which is the annulment of election results for vice president in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.” Only two, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, dissented and voted to have the Marcos protest dismissed. Associate Justice Jose Reyes did not participate in the voting.
Supporters of Robredo, including the obviously biased people masquerading as journalists in various media platforms, try their best to highlight the dissent of Justices Carpio and Caguioa, even edifying them as the defenders of democracy. They seem to forget that the Supreme Court sitting as the PET is a collegial body, and the collective wisdom of the majority, which in this case is an overwhelming one of 11 justices, prevails. What is being thrown around is the allegation that Marcos failed to show the ability to substantially recover and wipe out Robredo’s margin, and the claim that she even widened her lead by 15,000 votes.
Robredo demands that the PET uphold Rule 65. In fact, it just did.
She should read carefully Rule 65. The phrase “substantial recovery” is never used. What is instead cited is the probability of a failure to make out a case. And while the examination of ballots and proofs, and after making reasonable allowances, is the basis for the PET to make a decision, it is not limited to this. The PET is also allowed to take all other circumstances into account. This is precisely why it is significant that the PET decided to move into Marcos’ third cause of action, where he sought to annul the elections in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao. Certainly, the allegations of massive fraud uncovered in the Tan vs. Hataman case, where signatures of people who voted did not match those who are registered were confirmed, would qualify as a significant circumstance.
It should be said that the conduct of elections is a fundamental pillar of our democracy, and it is anathema to this principle that election protests should be decided simply on the basis of a technicality.
If indeed Robredo is so confident that she won fairly, and that her votes would even increase as allegedly has happened in the pilot areas, and that her huge margin in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao is unassailable simply because people voted for her as a reward for being the only candidate who went there, she should not have any problem. After all, Marcos is the one funding the protest. It also appears that time is on her side. If it took three years to finish the recount in the three pilot areas, there is a strong possibility that the entire process would not be finished by 2022, which is the end of her term. It is therefore odd that Robredo appears to be running scared. And she is so obviously affected that she has become quite aggressive, impugning directly the character of her opponent by implying that Marcos is a thief and a faker not only of a diploma but also of news.
Robredo is obviously scared.
After all, while Marcos’ claim to the vice president post may be timed-out in 2022, Robredo will nevertheless face the risk that the results not only of the recount but also of an inquiry into the allegations of fraud in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would be detrimental to her legacy and her place in history. There is a risk that her 15,000-increase in the margin in the recount in the pilot areas may in fact be due to the decision to reduce the minimum-shading threshold from 50 percent to 25 percent. If that happens, then it is obvious that she benefited from that decision which was not publicized, and was only disclosed after Marcos filed his protest.
Robredo crows that everything she has achieved is due to her hard and honest work. She confidently declares that she has not stolen anything. This is what she wants us to believe. These lofty words will most likely crumble if it is proven later that her votes in ARMM were indeed manufactured by pre-shaders who worked like thieves in the night, and by a cabal of phantom voters affixing their signatures on names in lieu of the real people who are registered under those names.
This is what scares Robredo.
Because frankly, for someone who is so confident of not being a robber of votes, she and her lawyers and followers are the ones insisting that the case be dismissed on a mere technicality.