MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo wants former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr to pay P2 billion for the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) continued protection of all poll paraphernalia relevant to his election protest.
Robredo's lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Maria Bernadette Sardillo filed their urgent manifestation and motion before the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), on Tuesday, September 5.
Last year, the PET had directed the Comelec to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all ballot boxes, their contents, and all other election-related paraphernalia – including the automated election equipment and records – in all 92,509 clustered precincts used in the May polls. It was a decision in favor of Marcos' petition.
But Robredo's lawyers argued that Marcos must shoulder the Comelec's expenses for this, which they pegged at P2,078,304,255.76.
"Bakit namin hinihingi ito? Because he asked for the retention of 92,509 vote-counting machines (VCMs)… Dapat naisoli na ito sa Smartmatic pero hindi naisosoli dahil nga sa protesta nga ni Marcos at ito ay magkakahalaga ng P2 billion for retaining that," said Macalintal in a press conference.
(Why are we asking for this? Because he asked for the retention of 92,509 vote-counting machines... These should have been returned to Smartmatic but that's still not being done because of Marcos' protest, and the cost of retaining the VCMs would be P2 billion.)
Macalintal also said their motion before the PET is consistent with an earlier ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in the electoral protest filed by former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino against Senator Leila de Lima.
The SET had directed Tolentino to deposit P2.2 million, representing the cost of the Comelec's retention of 106 VCMs in his protest against De Lima.
"In other words, if Tolentino was required to deposit for the Comelec's expenses, there is no reason why Mr Marcos should not be asked to deposit also the corresponding payment for the 92,509 vote-counting machines, which he asked to be retained by the Comelec in connection with his protest," said Macalintal in Filipino.
Robredo had beaten her closest vice presidential rival Marcos by just 263,473 votes in the 2016 polls. Marcos accused her of cheating and filed an electoral protest, prompting a counter-protest from the Vice President. (READ: TIMELINE: Marcos-Robredo election case)