Execute Rule 65

By: Artchil B. Fernandez

Something fishy is going on in the highest court of the land. It seems the present Supreme Court is not yet done wrecking the rule of law in the country. Destroying the rule of law it appears has become an obsession of the High Court.  This is what the Court’s dilly-dallying in the on-going protest in the vice-presidential race indicates.

Defeated vice-presidential candidate in the 2016 election  and the son of a dictator, Bongbong Marcos filed a protest before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) alleging massive fraud that cost him the election. Vice-President Leni Robredo won over the dictator’s son by a slim margin of 263,473 votes.

In his complaint, Marcos petitioned for three causes of action: First, there is no ground for declaring a winner in the 2016 election as the automated election was compromised; a recount of ballots in three pilot provinces he selected; and annulment of election results for the vice-presidency in three Mindanao provinces – Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao. In an earlier decision, the PET threw-out the first cause of action Marcos requested.

PET asked Bongbong Marcos to name the three pilot provinces where he wanted a recount of the votes.  Marcos named the three provinces that best exemplify where massive cheating occurred. The provinces he believes he was cheated the most are Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental. Recounting the votes in these provinces Marcos alleged will show that many of his votes were not counted.  In effect, a recount will increase his votes in these provinces if those unaccounted votes are included.

The Supreme Court granted the second cause of action Marcos wanted.  It ordered a recount of votes in the three provinces that Marcos expects will expose massive fraud and cheating. For three years, the Supreme Court painstakingly labored to recount the votes. Ballot boxes were retrieved from the three provinces and brought to the PET. Votes were recounted under the strict supervision of the PET and in the presence of the representatives of Marcos and Robredo.

Finally, the recount is over. The result of the recount is ready and a full-report was submitted to the High Court last September 10 by Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa who was the justice-in-charge of the process.  Instead of acting on the report, the Supreme Court re-scheduled the deliberation to October 8, only to re-set its deliberation to October 15. Instead of resolving the issue, the justices voting 11-2, decided to prolong the case by releasing the report to the parties in the case, asking them to give their comments within 20 days. Why is the Supreme Court luke-warm or even unhappy with the report?

The report reveals that the recount in the three provinces that would demonstrate according to Marcos where he was massively cheated did not favor him. “Thus, based on the final tally after revision and appreciation of the votes in the pilot provinces, protestee Robredo maintained, as in fact, she increased, her lead with 14,436,337 votes over protestant Marcos who obtained 14,157,771 votes. After the revision and appreciation, the lead of protestee Robredo increased from 263,473 to 278,566.”  (PET resolution)

Marcos failed to prove he was cheated of his votes the PET report shows. His evidence did not support or back-up his allegation of fraud.  The recount, in fact, increased the votes of his opponent. Based on the evidence, it appears it is Robredo who was robbed of her votes instead of Marcos.

The rule of PET on the matter is clear.  Rule 65. Dismissal, when proper. The Tribunal may require the protestant or counter-protestant to indicate, within a fixed period, the province or provinces, numbering not more than three, best exemplifying the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition and the revision of the ballots and reception of evidence will begin with such provinces.  If upon examination of such ballots and proof and after making reasonable allowances, the Tribunal is convinced that, taking all circumstances into account, the protestant or counter-protestant will probably fail to make out his case, the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest.

Rule 65 of the PET is unmistakable and unequivocal. It must dismiss Marcos’ protest after he failed to show substantial recovery of votes in the provinces he selected where he believes will prove his allegations. Instead, the Supreme Court ignored its own rule and gave Marcos’ protest a lease of life. Justice Caguioa and Justice Carpio dissented.

“The Tribunal invested countless number of hours following the mandate of Rule 65,” argued Caguioa. “The Tribunal retrieved thousands of ballot boxes from three provinces, revised millions of ballots, and ruled on each and every objection and claim of the parties on these millions of ballots. After all these, the Tribunal eventually arrived at a final tally.” He added, “Numbers do not hold any feelings or political leanings. Numbers do not lie. They state things simply as they are. And when the numbers reveal a definite conclusion, the Tribunal would do a disservice to the public and to the nation not to heed the conclusion they provide.”

Justice Antonio Carpio in his dissent wrote: “(T)o allow (Marcos) to designate more than three pilot provinces as he now demands, is to change the Rules in the middle of the proceedings to accommodate him,” he warned. “The last thing that this Tribunal should do is to change its rules in midstream to accommodate a party who has failed to comply with what Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules expressly requires.”

For millions of reasons, majority of the justices are disinterested in justice and are playing around with their own rules. To save the rule of law and uphold justice, Filipinos as a people must demand from the Supreme Court – Execute Rule 65!