MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of an expected crucial ruling by the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), Vice President Leni Robredo called on the justices to not change the rules "in the middle of the game."
"Robredo still has the highest respect to the Honorable Tribunal that the Rules will not be changed in the middle of the game, so to speak," said the vice president's manifestation submitted to the PET on Monday, October 14.
The PET is expected to vote on Tuesday, October 15, on how it would proceed with Bongbong Marcos' electoral protest. The tribunal will reportedly decide on the report by member-in-charge Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa which concerns the results of initial recount of Marcos' chosen 3 pilot provinces.
Robredo and Marcos had their own revisors during the initial recount. Robredo won the vice presidency in the May 2016 elections.
"Based on the revision and the recount, we manifested and we filed pleadings before the Supreme Court pointing out the fact that based on our records of revision and recount, Mr. Marcos has no substantial recovery in the three pilot provinces," Robredo's lawyer Romulo Macalintal said at a press conference Monday morning after their filing.
ARMM votes and Rule 65
According to Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules, if there is no substantial recovery in the pilot provinces, "the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest."
"Notwithstanding the clear language of the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, rumors abound on the Honorable Tribunal proceeding to the 3rd cause of action despite an alleged finding that protestant Marcos has not made any substantial recovery," the manifestation said.
Marcos' supposed 3rd cause of action is to nullify votes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao, citing a separate case where the results of local elections there in 2016 are challenged due to alleged fraud.
Robredo's lawyer Beng Sardillo said the supposed 3rd cause of action was a belated move, saying it was never included in Marcos' initial petition.
"Last year, they filed for the second time a motion for technical examination on the three provinces in (the former) Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) —Maguindanao, Basilan, and Lanao del Sur. For the first time, doon nagkaroon ng distinction si Mr. Marcos na mayroon daw siyang second and third cause of action," Sardillo said.
(That was the first time that Mr. Marcos had a different distinction between his 2nd and 3rd causes of action.)
Macalintal said this is not allowed because it would be like allowing Marcos to have more than 3 pilot provinces, when Rule 65 clearly said the protest shall identify "provinces numbering not more than three best exemplifying the frauds."
"You have to rise and fall on the basis of those (3 pilot) provinces. Kapag tinuloy mo 'yung annulment sa Lanao, Basilan at Maguindanao naging 6 provinces na ang kinuha mo, that would violate the 3 provinces rule," Macalintal.
But Rule 65 makes use of the word "may," saying "the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest."
In the Maria Lourdes Sereno quo warranto case, the Supreme Court said that because the Constitution used the word "may" in prescribing impeachment as the mode to remove a chief justice, it means that they could use an alternative mode.
'3 pilot provinces rule'
Macalintal said if the PET allows the probe of the ARMM provinces despite finding that there was no substantial discovery in the 3 pilot provinces, it would give Marcos basis in the future to request for investigation of more provinces, contrary to Rule 65.
"Pagkatapos ng annulment wala ka pa ring nakita, ay teka muna meron pa kaming 27 other provinces, magpapa-revise ulit kami, puwede pa ba, wala nang magiging katapusan ito," said Macalintal.
(If after the annulment you still can't find anything, you could say we have 27 other provinces, we want to revise those, it's still allowed, this will never be finished.)
In a statement on Monday, Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez said the ARMM votes are included in their 2nd cause of action, not the 3rd.
"We are still in the 3 pilot provinces after three long years due to the delays employed by Robredo. Our second cause of action, the annulment of election results, have yet to commence notwithstanding that it is a separate and distinct action independent from the first," said Rodriguez.
Marcos' supporters have started to gather outside the Supreme Court on Monday, where they held a prayer vigil.
October 15 is the last en banc session before the SC takes a decision-writing break. Court deliberations will resume on November 4, said Public Information Chief Brian Keith Hosaka. – Rappler.com