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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) called on the Supreme Court’s Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to return the P13-million unused deposit of former vice president Leni Robredo and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. intended for the vice presidential electoral protest.
In its 2022 Annual Audit Report, COA said: “Management was unable to return to the contending parties the unutilized cash deposits totaling ₱13.318 million after the Tribunal rendered its Decision as required under Rule 33 of 2010 Rules of the PET.”
The auditing body said a review of the PET’s Bail Bonds Payable accounts, which consisted of deposits paid by the parties, showed a balance of P13.318 million, as of December 31, 2022. The full amount was broken down as follows:
- Robredo – P8,164,863.04
- Marcos – P5,152,832.16
Rule 33 of the 2010 PET rules states: “[the] cash deposit shall be applied by the Tribunal to the payment of all expenses to the bringing of ballot boxes and election documents or paraphernalia to the Tribunal and returning them after the case is terminated and to the compensation of members of the revision committee.” Unused cash deposits should therefore be returned to the protestant and counter-protestant at the end of the protest.
“The inability of Management to return the unutilized excess cash deposits of the protesting parties is not in conformity with Rule 33 of the 2010 Rules of PET, and places PET in unnecessary indebtedness from a private individual and the President of the Philippine Government,” COA noted.
In its audit report, COA recommended that the PET notify the parties of their unused money and to withdraw the said deposits. The auditing body also recommended that the PET order its Fiscal Management and Budget Office (FMBO) to process and return the unused cash deposits, in compliance with the rules.
The electoral tribunal, in its comment, said its accounting division already submitted the schedule of balance of cash deposits to the PET’s Ad Hoc committee. In a resolution dated March 8, 2023, the PET did the following:
- Approved the liquidation reports from the FMBO
- Ordered the release of the remaining deposits
- Authorized the FMBO to process the remaining balances’ release
- Directed its fiscal office to advise the parties to claim their remaining deposits
Established in 1957 through Republic Act No. 1793, the PET sits “as the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the president and the vice president.” Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo serves as the PET’s chairperson, while the 14 associate justices sit as members.
In 2016, Robredo defeated Marcos in the vice presidential race only by a slim margin. Then-senator Marcos filed an election protest and claimed there was massive cheating in the vice presidential election. (READ: TIMELINE: Marcos-Robredo election case)
Almost five years later, in a unanimous vote, the PET dismissed Marcos’ case. The High Court said in 2021 that “seven members fully concurred with the dismissal and eight concurred only with the result.” – Rappler.com