MANILA, Philippines – Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Monday, April 17, that former senator Ferdinand Marcos should pay P185 million, not just P66 million, in order for his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo to proceed.
Macalintal, Robredo's lawyer, explained that Marcos' protest covers the entire election system since he questioned the integrity and reliability of the vote-counting machines (VCMs) and storage devices in 92,509 clustered precincts, which consist of 369,138 established precincts.
Robredo's legal team stressed that in Marcos' previous motion granted by the Supreme Court (SC), he asked for the protection of all VCMs, consolidating canvass system units, and SD cards in all precincts.
"That's his total obligation in his protest. While he said that he is contesting 36,000 precincts, what he's actually contesting is the entire clustered precincts, 92,000, that functioned during the 2016 election," said Macalintal as he gave reporters a summary of their camp's manifestation filed last April 12.
The manifestation was submitted before the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), after it ordered Marcos and Robredo to pay P66 million and P15 million, respectively, as fee for the recount of the ballots being contested.
Both camps were given until Monday to settle the first tranche of the payment and until July 14 to pay the balance.
In his election case against Robredo, Marcos is questioning over 39,221 clustered precincts, composed of 132,446 established precincts. While he is only seeking a recount for 36,465 clustered precincts, the PET ordered him to pay for the established precincts he is questioning.
In Robredo's counter-protest, meanwhile, she is contesting 8,042 clustered precincts, consisting of 31,278 established precincts.
Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez said they filed a motion for reconsideration last week, asking the court to compute for the clustered precincts being contested and not the established precincts.
Marcos' motion for reconsideration and Robredo's manifestation led to the suspension of the Monday deadline as the PET has yet to settle the issues raised.
Robredo's lawyers also argued that Marcos' protest caused the delay in the return of the VCMs leased by service provider Smartmatic to the Commission on Elections (Comelec). This incurred a P2.1-billion fee for the Comelec for failure to return on time.
Robredo's camp has asked the SC to instruct the Comelec to provide an itemized list of expenses stemming from the delay in the return of the VCMs.
'Marcos must pay first'
Also included in Robredo's manifestation is her lawyers' argument that the Vice President should only pay for the required amount after Marcos has proven that there is sufficient basis in his protest by initiating the recount of the first batch of ballots.
Macalintal said that under the PET rules, the "initial reception of evidence" will proceed when the Marcos camp identifies 3 provinces where they could recover reports of poll fraud.
"'Pag nabuksan [ang balota sa] tatlong probinsya, saka pa lamang pag-uusapan kung matutuloy ang pagbabayad," said Macalintal.
(When the ballots in 3 provinces have been opened, that's the only time that discussion on whether or not our payment of the fee will proceed.)
"Mr Marcos should first prove that they will be able to recover votes. He should first deposit the money and have the ballots opened for us to see that his protest has basis. Because why would we deposit P15 million but in the end, nothing will happen?" he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The lawyer also highlighted that the payment of the PET fee, at P500 per precinct, is just the tip of the iceberg. Those involved in the case should also pay the revisors at least P1,500 each. Each revising team is composed of 3 revisors – a representative of the PET, and representatives from two contending camps.
Macalintal said this will cost both Marcos and Robredo another P775 million each for the whole duration of the protest.
Marcos, who lost the vice presidential race to Robredo by 263,473 votes, accused Robredo and the Liberal Party of orchestrating massive fraud in the May 2016 elections. His protest was filed in June last year. – Rappler.com