MANILA, Philippines – Former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday, January 26, seeking to start the preliminary conference of his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
The preliminary conference is where the issues of a case are simplified and the number of witnesses are set, among other agreements. The proceedings of the case are set in motion when the court issues a preliminary conference order. (READ: Presidential Electoral Tribunal: What happens to a protest?)
Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson for legal matters, said once the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), orders a preliminary conference, the hearing on the election protest will immediately proceed.
Rodriguez explained that after the parties submit their preliminary conference briefs, the High Court can already set a date for a judicial revision of the ballots, which is among the Marcos camp’s prayers in the case.
What will happen then to the unsettled issue of the data found in unused SD cards of vote-counting machines? Rodriguez said this must still be resolved even when the preliminary conference starts.
“If something questionable arises from the judicial review, [the SC] could go back to the SD cards to produce a picture image of the ballot,” said Rodriguez in a phone interview with Rappler.
He noted the importance of uncompromised election paraphernalia to prove the authenticity of the ballots. (READ: Marcos protests Robredo victory on eve of oath-taking)
Data in ‘clean’ SD cards
The Marcos camp earlier said that the data found in SD cards retrieved from unused vote-counting machines would prove that Vice President Leni Robredo cheated in the elections.
Rodriguez, during the decrypting activity at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on January 16, said that the supposedly clean and sealed cards containing data prove electoral fraud through a compromised automated election system.
Robredo’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal dismissed this speculation since no one knows the nature of the cards’ contents. The decryption activity has not been completed, he said, reminding Rodriguez that the SD cards are not part of the election protest.
Macalintal challenged Marcos to drop his protest and Rodriguez to withdraw his license to practice law if their claim does not prove cheating. In turn, Macalintal also offered to withdraw his license if he is proven wrong.
On Wednesday, January 25, Macalintal sent a formal letter to lawyer George Garcia, lead counsel of the Marcos team. The letter contained a memorandum of agreement that both camps must jointly sign on January 31 at 11 am in Intramuros, Manila, where the main office of the Comelec is located.
Garcia refused to comment on the letter since the dare was originally addressed to Rodriguez.
Sought for a comment, Rodriguez called the challenge a “joke” and a “media stunt”: “Amid their panic mode, they are trying to inject his usual comic humor.” – Rappler.com