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Election protest of late dictator’s son rejected

THE SUPREME Court has rejected for lack of merit the election protest of defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., according to its spokesman.

The 15-member court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, dismissed the lawsuit unanimously, court spokesman Brian Keith F. Hosaka told an online news briefing on Tuesday.

“Out of the 15 members of the tribunal who were present in today’s meeting, seven members fully concurred in the dismissal, while eight concurred in the result,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

The court also dismissed the counter-protest of Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, he said in a separate e-mail later.

Mr. Hosaka said his office would upload a copy of the court’s order detailing the reasons for the dismissal as soon as it became available.

Mr. Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, filed the protest in June 2016 after narrowly losing to Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, alleging widespread fraud.

In the Philippines, the President and vice president are elected separately and can come from different political parties. Both are barred by law from seeking reelection.

Their six-year terms will end in 2022.

A resolution released in October 2019 showed that Ms. Robredo’s lead against Mr. Marcos in the pilot provinces of Camariñes Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental — where he alleged cheating took place — rose by about 15,000 votes after the initial recount.

Marcos spokesman Victor Rodriguez said the tribunal had only voted to dismiss their second cause of action, which was for a manual recount and judicial revision.

“As to the issue on how to proceed with our third cause of action which is the annulment of votes in Mindanao, the tribunal has yet to decide on the matter,” he said in an e-mail.

Presidential legal adviser Salvador S. Panelo said the rule of law has prevailed. “Due process was evidently observed with both parties having been given the opportunity to present their respective cases.”

“The electorate’s decision is to be accorded the stamp of correctness,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “We have to abide by the precepts of democracy. We can not be blinded by our personal biases for a particular candidate. That is how democracy works,” he added.

“We welcome the ruling although how we wish this had been resolved much sooner,” Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, who heads the opposition Liberal Party, said in an e-mailed statement.

“It affirms what we have been saying from day one, which is that the allegations of cheating in the process were baseless,” he added.

“I, together with the more than 14 million Filipinos who voted for Vice-President Leni Robredo in 2016, are pleased with the favorable decision of the PET,” opposition Senator Franklin M. Drilon said in a statement.

“The PET decision should put the issue to rest,” he said. “I enjoin all parties involved to respect the decision. Let us begin the healing process now and focus on what is before us — the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ibarra Gutierrez, Ms. Robredo’s spokesman, said her office would issue a statement soon.

The Makati Business Club (MBC) applauded the tribunal for settling the 2016 vice presidential election dispute “and doing so with rare unanimity.”

“The decision removes a major source of unnecessary and damaging political uncertainty, confirms our electoral process and strengthens the unity we need to win the war against COVID-19 and accelerate the jobs and economic recovery needed by our people,” it said in a statement posted on its website.

The Supreme Court earlier threatened to hold Solicitor General Jose C. Calida in contempt for seeking to oust a magistrate he had accused of bias in the election protest.

The court ordered him to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for seeking the inhibition of Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen.

It rejected separate inhibition pleas by the top government lawyer and Mr. Marcos, who had both cited news articles alleging bias on the part of the magistrate.

Mr. Marcos had accused Mr. Leonen, who presides over the case, of being biased against his family. He also accused the justice at an online briefing of trying to delay the case.

Mr. Calida, in a separate motion, said Mr. Leonen had failed to act on the electoral protest for 11 months.

The tribunal had warned both parties not to discuss the case to the media and observe the so-called sub judice rule, which bars anyone from issuing comments that could interfere with the court’s handling of the suit. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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