VP electoral protest

Lawmakers: Time to begin ‘healing process’ after SC ruling on VP electoral protest

Mara Cepeda

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Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House say the defeat of Bongbong Marcos is also a 'big legal slap' for Solicitor General Jose Calida

Opposition senators and other lawmakers on Wednesday, February 16, welcomed the Supreme Court’s (SC) dismissal of the electoral protest of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo, saying this should finally “put the issue to rest.”

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan – president of the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP) which Robredo chairs – said on Tuesday, February 16, that the dismissal of the VP poll protest case only proves that Marcos’ allegations had been baseless all along. 

“We welcome the ruling although how we wish this had been resolved much sooner because it affirms what we have been saying from Day 1, which is that the allegations of cheating in the process was baseless,” Pangilinan said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, an LP stalwart, also said the decision of the SC, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), “should put the issue to rest.”

“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. The PET decision should put the issue to rest. I enjoin all parties involved to respect the decision,” said Drilon.

“Let us begin the healing process now and focus on what is before us – COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Senator Risa Hontiveros hailed the end of the VP protest case, saying in Filipino that she “respects the PET decision as they had done their mandate without bias and based on evidence presented to them.”

At the House of Representatives, Ako Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr said the unanimity of the PET’s decision “speaks volumes and should put to rest any doubts as regards her victory in the May 2016 elections.”

Robredo beat Marcos by just 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential elections, prompting the latter to allege cheating and to file an election case against her.

The High Court has yet to provide details of the decision, incuding the main basis of the dismissal.

The SC ruling puts an end to over 4 years of litigation on the VP electoral protest, where the Marcos camp attempted to make the case lead inhibit from the case. 

The PET finished the pilot recount of Marcos’ 3 chosen provinces in October 2019, which resulted to an even wider lead of Robredo over Marcos.

Robredo had argued that the PET should have junked the protest by then, but the tribunal moved to deliberate on Marcos’ 3rd cause of action to annul the vote results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao.

Ordered to comment by the PET, the Commission on Elections said there were no failure of elections in the 3 Mindanao provinces.

But Solicitor General Jose Calida – a known ally of the Marcoses – said the PET has the power to declare nullity of elections in an area, but it cannot hold special elections.

‘Big legal slap’ for Calida

On Tuesday, House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate said Marcos’ loss is also a “big legal slap” in the face for Calida. 

“As it is, the PET decision, clearly, is also a big legal slap on the Solicitor General, who even intervened in the case in support of Marcos, who is clearly, a  private party! This development is significant, especially now that the Filipino people are pushing back yet again against tyranny,” said the Bayan Muna congressman.

Calida had joined the motion to inhibit filed by Marcos against Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the case lead in the Marcos electoral protest. The High Court had junked the motion and said it was “deeply disturbed” by Calida’s action.

ACT Teachers Representative France Castro even went as far as calling for Calida’s resignation. 

“Malaking kahihiyan din ito sa OSG na nakialam bilang pribadong indibidwal at sumuporta kay Bongbong Marcos. For delicadeza, dapat na rin sigurong magbitiw na siya sa tungkulin,” said Castro. 

(This is a big embarrassment for the OSG that meddled as a private individual and supported Bongbong Marcos. For the sake of delicadeza, maybe he should resign from his post.)

Robredo’s court victory comes just a day after President Rodrigo Duterte once again belittled her capability to lead. Duterte had said in the past he would have preferred Marcos, his ally, to be vice president instead. 

But detained Senator Leila de Lima said the dismissal of the VP protest proves Robredo “was duly elected by the people” and that she has consistently proven her leadership skills.

“Not only does VP Leni have a clear mandate, her magnificent performance in office has shown that she’s way more qualified than anyone Duterte can pick to replace him,” De Lima said in a statement.

The Vice President has yet to comment on the decision herself, but she scheduled a press conference at 6 pm on Tuesday.

Both the Robredo and Marcos parties have yet to receive an official copy of the PET’s ruling as of posting. Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said they will issue an official statement once they have read the decision in full. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.