Vice President Leni Robredo should take a counter-offensive and file a counter-protest versus former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., suggested election lawyer Emil Marañon III.
In his article published by Rappler, Marañon said that Robredo is not in a position to just “sit back and watch,” as what some political observers have suggested because of her narrow lead of 263,000 votes over Marcos.
“To offset any potential votes that Marcos will gain in the recount, it is both strategic and necessary for the VP to take a counter-offensive and file a counter-protest herself,” Marañon wrote.
“A counter-protest will allow her to make the necessary claims on her unaccounted votes and also attack the votes cast in favor of Marcos,” he added.
Robredo earlier said that she is more concerned about where to get the funding for the legal fees than Marcos’ election protest, deeming it baseless. However, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that he is willing to represent Robredo for free.
Marañon noted that a counter-protest is just as costly as an election protest as it also requires P500 cash deposit for each established precinct, which could amount to millions depending on the protests’ scope. The counter-protestant also needs to pay the P100,000 filing fee, which could truly present a problem to Robredo, who has a declared net worth of P8 million. On top of these fees, Robredo would have to pay for lawyers’ fees, expenses incurred in evidence gathering, daily’s meals, and fees of recount watchers and revisors, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Several Robredo supporters planned to donate money to help cover the cost of the election protest. Although grateful for the support, Robredo’s camp said that they would not accept the funds since it is not in accordance with the law.
Aside from the expenses, Marañon also pointed out how 10 days might not be enough to squeeze in her counter-protest.
The Supreme Court acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) asked Robredo on August 2 to respond in ten days to Marcos’ protest.
Examining Marcos’ grounds for filing an election protest
Marañon also discussed each parameter in Marcos’ protest, which included the following, as published on Rappler:
- The non-compliance of the 2016 Automated Election System (AES) with the mandatory provisions of Republic Act 8436, as amended by RA 9639
- The unauthorized tampering of the Transparency Server, which allegedly paved the way for the commission of technical fraud during the transmission of votes
- The presence of 3 million undervotes, which Marcos claims to be “highly unlikely”
- The existence of massive electoral fraud on election day, particularly in Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur; move to recount votes in 36,000 precincts in 22 provinces and 5 cities also on ground of various irregularities
According to Marañon, parameters (1) and (2) are “issues that may not be tried in an election protest case, unless Marcos proves that such allegations actually affected the final result.”
He also pointed out that a protest recount’s ultimate goal is to disregard the result of the AES and go back to manual counting of the physical ballots. But by protesting the non-compliance of the 2016 AES, Marcos basically waives his objection over this issue.
Earlier, Robredo’s lawyer, Macalintal, said that Marcos’ protest is erroneous because he protested the election results in some areas, essentially calling for a failure of election. He added that this is not within the jurisdiction of the PET but of the Comelec En Banc, under Section 14 of RA No. 7166.
“Likewise, ‘failure of election’ means ‘no one is elected,’ hence, there could be no failure of election since the President down to the last councilors were duly elected and had already assumed their respective offices,” Macalintal said.
Marañon also pointed out the same thing in his article.
“It must be noted that effect of an election protest – as also explicitly prayed for by Mr. Marcos – is for him to be declared and proclaimed as the winner of the 2016 vice presidential election. How can one possibly pray to be proclaimed as the “winner” of an election, which at the same time one claims to be null and void? Those are two irreconcilable and inconsistent positions that technically cancel each other,” Marañon said.
“As regards the prayer for the annulment of election results in Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur, it is quite strange to see it prayed in an election protest. A prayer for a wholesale annulment of election results is technically a prayer for the declaration of “failure of elections” under Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code. However, this following a line of cases, is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections en banc, and not of the PET,” he added.
As for the issue regarding the 3 million undervotes, Marañon said, “Marcos cannot claim that all 3 million as his without first proving that they were indeed cast in his favor and not mere abstentions.”
Marañon, according to his Rappler profile, served as chief of staff of former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. He is said to be currently studying Human Rights, Conflict and Justice at SOAS, University of London, as a Chevening scholar.