Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. vs. Maria Leonor “Leni Daang Matuwid” G. Robredo.

P.E.T. Case No. 005, February 16, 2021

FACTS: 

An election protest was filed by Ferdinand Marcos, Jr who challenged the election and proclamation of Maria Leonor Robredo (protestee) as vice president in the 2016 national and local elections.  The Tribunal categorized his causes of action into: 

  1. Annulment and Proclamation. The proclamation of Robredo as the duly elected [Vice President] is null and void because the [Certificates of Canvass (COCs)] generated by the [Consolidation and Canvass System (CCS)] are not authentic, and may not be used as basis to determine the number of votes that the candidates for Vice President received.
  2. Revision and Recount. Revision and recount of the paper ballots and/or the ballot images as well as an examination, verification, and analysis of the voter’s receipts, election returns, audit logs, transmission logs, the list of voters, particularly the [election day computerized voter’s list], and [voters registration record], the books of voters and other pertinent election documents and/or paraphernalia used in the elections, as well as the automated election equipment and records such as the [vote counting machines], [consolidated canvassing system] units, SD cards (main and backup), and the other data storage devices containing electronic data and ballot images in ALL of the 36,465 protested clustered precincts pursuant to Rules 38 to 45 of the 2010 PET Rules. 
  3. Annulment of Elections. Annulment of election results for the position of Vice President in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur[,] and Basilan, on the ground of terrorism, intimidation[,] and harassment of voters as well as pre-shading of ballots in all of the 2,756 protested clustered precincts that functioned in the aforesaid areas

Tribunal dismissed protestant’s first cause of action, pointing out that the veracity of his allegations on the inauthenticity and unreliability of the certificates of canvass could only be determined by a manual recount of all votes in all precincts. The Tribunal limited the issues to protestant’s second and third causes of action, and to protestee’s Counter­-Protest. It then directed that the revision of ballots would begin with protestant’s designated pilot provinces, which were Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental. The pilot provinces would serve as test cases, and the revision results would determine if this Tribunal would proceed with the revision of ballots in the remaining contested clustered precincts.

ISSUES: 

1. Whether the protestant fails to meet the strict requirement of specificity and established rules on evidence to support the allegations of election irregularities

2. Whether no substantial recovery of votes in the pilot provinces is shown, thus, election protest must be dismissed.

3. Whether there is a failure of elections or any ground to annul the election results.

HELD: 

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal DISMISSES the Election Protest filed by protestant Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. for lack of merit.

1. YES.  Allegations in election protests must be specific. The requirement of specificity deters fishing expeditions by losing candidates who, without clear bases for challenging election outcomes, are merely gambling with probabilities. It prevents situations in which sweeping allegations of electoral fraud are used by defeated contenders to discover by happenstance surmised irregularities in elections. Failing to forward a “detailed specification of the acts or omissions complained of” makes the protest insufficient in form and substance, warranting its summary dismissal. 

This Protest could have been dismissed under Rule 21 of this Tribunal’s Rules. However, the Court  painstakingly heard every argument to afford the parties due process. Protestant’s allegations appeared bare, laden with generic and repetitious allegations, and lacked critical information as to the time, place, and manner that the alleged irregularities.

  1. On protestant’s claim that “terrorism, violence, force, threats, [and] intimidation” attended the elections, he made no mention of the acts that shed light on how these occurred. The Protest was silent on how they affected and disturbed the elections in the municipalities where these supposedly happened. He did not even point to the precincts where these irregularities transpired.
  2. Protestant also referred to the “abnormally high unaccounted votes / undervotes” in provinces and cities, but did not submit a single supporting affidavit, let alone articulate a satisfactory recollection of how these arose.
  3. He likewise argued that the names of deceased persons were included in the Precinct Computerized Voters List, and that flying voters were rampant as they took the place of said supposedly deceased voters. Regrettably, he did not specify where these actually happened.

2. YES. protestant failed to make out his case through his designated pilot provinces. Thus, this Protest must be dismissed.

In election protests before this Tribunal, the mandatory ceiling in designating pilot provinces is three. Failure to show substantial recovery of votes in these pilot provinces entails the protest’s dismissal.  This Tribunal was explicit in imposing the mandatory ceiling in pilot provinces to serve as a litmus test of the allegations in this protest. When no substantial recovery of votes in the pilot provinces is shown, the election protest must be dismissed. This principle is consistent across all three tribunals.

If, indeed, protestant was convinced of his claims in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan, then he should have indicated those three as his pilot provinces. But he did not, to no fault of this Tribunal. The ballots from the three pilot provinces that protestant handpicked to substantiate his allegations­ Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental-were thoroughly scrutinized. As witnessed by the parties’ representatives, this Tribunal went over the ballots from 5,415 clustered precincts in these provinces. Having carefully ruled on every claim and objection, this Tribunal tallied 1,510,178 votes in protestee’s favor, and 204,512 votes in protestant’s favor. By this alone, protestant failed to show reasonable recovery of votes in his designated pilot provinces which supposedly best exemplified his allegations of fraud and irregularities. It fails to convince this Tribunal that protestant can overcome protestee’s lead.

3. None. Marcos failed to show prima facie evidence of his claims that “terrorism, intimidation and harassment of voters, pre­shading of ballots, and substitution of voters” attended the elections in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan. Annulling the votes for vice president in the 2016 elections casts serious doubts on the victory of other nationally elected officials like the president, senators, and party-list representatives. This is why “the power to annul an election should be exercised with the greatest care as it involves the free and fair expression of the popular will. It is only in extreme cases of fraud and under circumstances which demonstrate to the fullest degree a fundamental and wanton disregard of the law that elections are annulled, and then only when it becomes impossible to take any other step

NOTES: 

FAILURE ON ELECTIONPRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSYELECTION CONTEST
a failure of election may be declared if, “on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes the election in any polling place has not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting, or … such election results in a failure to elect, [or] in any of such cases the failure or suspension of election would affect the result of the election[.]”186 For its declaration, the alleged illegality must have affected more than 50% of the votes cast.A pre-proclamation controversy concerns questions affecting the proceedings of the board of canvassers or “any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235, and 236 [of the Omnibus Election Code] in relation to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody, and appreciation of the election returns. Further, only the issues provided in Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy.
a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers;(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects, appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same returns or in the authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Section 233, 234, 235, and 236 of this Code;© The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic; and(d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places were canvassed, the results of which materially affected the standing of the aggrieved candidate or candidates.
Under the Automated Election System, pre-proclamation controversies cover only two issues, both concerning the Board of Canvassers: (a) its illegal composition; and (b) its illegal proceedings.
Election contests, which only contemplate post-election scenarios take the form of either an election protest orAn election protest involves “a contest between the defeated and winning candidates on the grounds of fraud or irregularities in the casting and counting of ballots, or in the preparation of the returns.” It is centered on the issue of who actually and validly obtained the plurality of votes.a petition for quo warranto.A petition for quo warranto is defined as “an action against a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office.”198 It is appropriate only “for the purpose of questioning the election of a candidate on the ground of disloyalty or ineligibility.Although distinct, both actions aim to unseat a winning candidate after proclamation and assumption of office. 

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