MANILA, Philippines – The camp of defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr said they are hoping the recount of ballots will start by September, after the Supreme Court (SC) conducted the preliminary conference on his election case against Vice President Leni Robredo.
In a briefing after the preliminary conference on Tuesday, July 11, Marcos' lead counsel George Garcia said that the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has issued a guide on the proceedings of the case, which both camps have to answer in 5 working days.
"That will happen by next week. Then hopefully, there will be a collection of ballots by the middle of August. That will take the entire August, so we can start the revision by September," Garcia said.
He added that their camp is willing to take the necessary measures to speed up the process, including having fewer witnesses. The parties have resolved that there will only be 3 witnesses per contested precinct.
Aside from the comment they have to file, Marcos and his lawyers are now just waiting for an order from the PET for the revision of ballots to proceed.
Marcos, who attended the briefing, expressed confidence that there will be no more obstacles to the proceedings. (READ: TIMELINE: Marcos-Robredo election case)
"The justices were already mentioning some preparations. Arrangements [are] to be made for all parties to come and be part of the trips going to the different areas [where the ballots will be retrieved]," said the former senator.
100 revision committees
The Marcos camp also asked the PET to create 100 revision committees. If this request is granted, the manual recount of votes is expected to be done in 180 days.
They are also expecting a swift resolution of the case if the recount of the pilot provinces yields the 263,473 margin between the votes garnered by Marcos and Robredo. (READ: Marcos completes payment of P66.2-M electoral protest fee)
In his preliminary conference brief, Marcos named Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental as the initial provinces where votes will be counted to prove the sufficiency of his protest. Camarines Sur is Robredo's hometown, where she won by a landslide. (READ: Bongbong vs Leni: 2016 'election fingerprints' in possible recount areas)
"If we overcome the lead [with the 3 provinces], it's the option of the protestant whether or not to continue the recount," Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez explained.
He noted, however, that the PET will still have to decide on Robredo's counter-protest. (READ: Deadline for 2nd tranche payment of Robredo's protest fee extended)
While the Marcos camp is optimistic about the results of the preliminary conference, Robredo's lawyers said there are issues that have yet to be resolved.
In a chance interview, lawyer Bernadette Sardillo said SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen pointed out that Marcos' question on the integrity of the entire automated election system may pose consequences.
Citing Leonen, Sardillo said Marcos cannot "surgically remove" the results of the vice presidential race from the results of the other positions.
"Kung matatandaan ninyo noong canvassing sa Kongreso, iisa lang ang certificate of canvass for President and Vice President. So kung sasabihin mong hindi totoo at hindi mapagkakatiwalaan ang certificate of canvass, di ibig sabihin pati po ang Presidente, dinaya at mababakante ang posisyon," said the Vice President's lawyer.
(If you remember during the canvassing in Congress, there was only one certificate of canvass for President and Vice President. So if you say that the certificate of canvass was fraudulent and cannot be trusted, that means even the President is affected and his post would have to be vacated.)
Several motions filed before the PET prior to the preliminary conference also remain pending.
For the Marcos camp, however, the most important thing now is to proceed with the opening of the ballot boxes.
"What they want us to do is to present evidence and witnesses first," Garcia said. "But the ballots are the evidence we need inside those boxes." – Rappler.com