Supreme Court wraps up VP poll recount

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Vice President Leni Robredo (L) and former Senator Bongbong Marcos (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 10) — The fight over the vice president's seat could be resolved soon, as the body tasked to do the poll recount in three provinces in line with a protest has completed its task.

"The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has concluded and finished the recount and revision of ballots in the three test provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental, and Camarines Sur involving 5,415 election precincts," SC Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday.

He added that all 15 members of the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, have been given copies of the poll recount report submitted Monday. The provinces were chosen as pilot areas for the recount. Camarines Sur is Robredo's bailiwick, where she served one term as representative in the province's third district.

Hosaka said the PET "has not taken any action yet" on the report, which would determine the fate of the electoral protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.

Robredo was proclaimed vice president three years ago with a lead of 263,473 votes against Marcos during the May 2016 elections. The recount began in April 2018, two years after Marcos filed his poll protest.

Poll tribunal: Look at total vote count in classifying VP poll results

In June, Robredo asked the PET to declare her as winner as her lead rose by about 15,000 from the recount. However, the PET dismissed the petition in July since it has not released the final tally at the time.

Hosaka said he has not seen its contents, but added that members of the tribunal will likely "consider and study the report" before handing down a decision.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said last week PET members are not dragging their feet in resolving the poll protest, with only three years left in the vice president's term. He added that the body needs to be very careful what to decide.

The recount result will determine whether Marcos' protest will be dismissed, or will merit expanding the scope of recount to other areas.

Marcos earlier asked for a technical examination of election results in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan, saying the Commission on Elections discovered "massive fraud" in these areas.

The PET reminded Robredo and Marcos of the sub judice rule, saying they should "strictly refrain from making any public statements to the media about the said case."

Still, Robredo's lawyer Romulo Macalintal said he expects the recount to result in the dismissal of Marcos' protest.

"Nakasalalay ang kalagayan ng nasabing protesta doon sa recommendation ng ating hearing commissioners. At kami’y naniniwala naman na doon sa result ng revision and recount, talaga namang wala kaming nakitang anumang bagay para masabi na mababago ang resulta ng ating halalan," Macalintal said in an ambush interview.

[Translation: The fate of the protest is on the hands of the hearing commissioners. We believe that in the results of the revision and recount, there's nothing there that would change the results of the 2016 elections.]

Macalintal, a seasoned election lawyer, added that the magistrates should uphold the findings and recommendations of those who actually examined the ballots from the pilot areas unless they discover glaring mistakes or "grave abuse of discretion" on the part of the commissioners in making their conclusion.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.