Still no vote on Bongbong Marcos' VP poll protest

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The Supreme Court did not vote on the poll protest filed by former Senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday, but ordered the release of the report of the recount to the two camps.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 15) — The Supreme Court did not vote yet on the poll protest filed by former Senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo this week, with the issue remaining unresolved under three chief justices.

The high court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) did not decide on the electoral protest on the last en banc session presided over by Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Tuesday, SC Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka told reporters. He retires on his 70th birthday this Friday.

Instead, the PET ordered the release of the committee report on the result of the poll recount to Marcos and Robredo and requested for their comments within 20 days upon receipt of the notice. Thirteen magistrates decided on the order, 11-2.

Chief Justice: Marcos poll protest result 'may not be what you expect'

To recall, Marcos lodged an electoral protest against Robredo on June 30, 2016, questioning the results of the May 2016 presidential polls. Robredo was proclaimed vice president after clinching a lead of 263,473 votes against Marcos. A recount began in April 2018 covering polling precincts in Iloilo, Camarines Sur — Robredo's bailiwick — and Negros Oriental.

In September, Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa prepared a report that details the official tally of the poll recount in the three pilot areas chosen by Marcos. The official tally has not been made public yet, but Robredo earlier claimed that her lead grew by 15,000 from the exercise.

READ: Robredo admits getting nervous as decision on VP poll protest nears

The poll protest has been pending under former Chief Justice Teresita De Castro and her predecessor, the ousted Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Bersamin earlier assured that members of the bench were not dragging their feet in resolving the poll protest, with less than three years left in the vice president's term.

'Very good'

Robredo's lawyer Emil Marañon said the resolution is "very good" for their camp, as this meant that the PET treats the result of the recount in the pilot provinces as an important detail in the electoral protest.

"For us, this is an indirect recognition na it matters na merong substantial recovery si Mr. Marcos for his protest to go on before the PET," Marañon told CNN Philippines. "Wala kaming kaduda-duda na the moment na ma-release ang Caguioa report, the protest case of Mr. Marcos will be dismissed."

Former Commission on Elections Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the PET's decision is a "good move" as it will allow the parties and the public to know the latest developments on the case. It will likewise allow the parties to comment on the report, which he described as a compilation of all objections to each ballot covered in the recount.

"You don't base your analysis and your conclusion only on the number of the objected ballots. You base it on the grounds for the objection of the ballot," Larrazabal said. "Anyone can object to any ballot... You have to see what's the basis of the objection. What's important is you have to filter out all the objections, see what is a valid objection, and then vote on it."

Larrazabal said it is here when the Marcos and Robredo camps can comment on the observations, which he said will help the PET.

More areas covered?

Hosaka added that the PET also asked the parties to submit a memoranda to raise their comments and issues on Marcos' call to nullify votes in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan.

Marcos' camp earlier asked for a technical examination of election results in these areas in Mindanao, saying that the COMELEC discovered "massive fraud" here. On Monday, Robredo's camp filed a manifestation reminding the PET that it cannot move forward with the protest should Marcos fail to substantially recover Robredo’s lead on votes from the pilot areas.

But Marcos wanted a comparison and/or examination of the data of 82,316 registered voters in 508 precincts from the three provinces in Mindanao, alleging that over 40,000 signatures and thumbarks were not identical. Robredo's manifestation asked the PET to uphold its rules, reminding them that the rules state that results from the initial three pilot provinces should be re-examined first.

Hosaka said that Caguioa and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio dissented but no explanations were relayed to him yet. A source said Carpio dissented because for him, Marcos' poll protest should have already been dismissed without the substantial recovery of votes.

Separately, Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez said their camp remains determined to secure victory in the poll protest and allow the former senator to assume the second-highest position in the land: "Any day of delay works to our disadvantage."

Rodriguez added that they are hoping for the high court to simultaneously tackle the two remaining causes of action lodged by Marcos to resolve the electoral protest, referring to revision and recount of votes in 36,465 clustered precincts and the annulment of results in the three provinces in Mindanao.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.