Supreme Court unanimously junks Marcos' VP poll protest vs Robredo

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, on Tuesday unanimously dismissed the entire electoral protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The court's spokesperson Brian Hosaka said all 15 magistrates voted, with seven fully concurring with the dismissal while eight concurred with the poll protest result. He did not disclose the names and who was the ponente, or the justice who penned the decision. A copy of the decision has yet to be sent to the camps of Robredo and Marcos.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te explained this means the justices had different reasons for dismissing the protest, but they have the same conclusion. He added Marcos' camp can still appeal the decision, but the unanimous vote of the magistrates would make it "extremely difficult to reverse."

A highly-placed source in the Supreme Court said defeated candidate Marcos failed to present specific acts to back his claims of poll fraud, such as the time and manner of irregularities.

"Allegations were bare, laden with generic and repetitious allegations," the source said.

The high court's decision concludes more than four years of litigation. The case was transferred from Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in October 2019. Marcos and Solicitor General Jose Calida also failed in their attempts for Leonen to inhibit from the case.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a briefing said they respect the decision of the court.

"We respect that and we respect also that the camp of Senator Bongbong Marcos has a further remedy of moving for reconsideration," he noted.

Marcos, who lost the 2016 vice presidential race, lodged the poll protest against Robredo on June 30, 2016. The son of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos questioned the results of the May 2016 polls where Robredo defeated him by 263,473 votes.

The tribunal in October 2019 found that Robredo's lead grew by around 15,000 votes after a recount of ballots from the 5,415 clustered precincts in the pilot provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental, and Camarines Sur — Robredo's bailiwick. The pilot areas for the recount were chosen by Marcos' camp.

In a statement on Monday, Marcos' spokesperson Atty. Vic Rodriguez said, "The court unanimously voted to dismiss our second cause of action which is the manual recount and judicial revision. However, as to the issue on how to proceed with our third cause of action which is the annulment of votes in Mindanao, the Tribunal has yet to decide on the matter."

But in an updated briefer issued later in the day, the Supreme Court Public Information Office made it clear the PET junked Marcos' entire election protest.

In January this year, Marcos — in his so-called third cause of action — asked the tribunal to revisit the results of the poll recount and to validate voter signatures in three provinces in Mindanao namely Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan due to alleged fraud and terrorism. The PET was in the process of reviewing if it has the power to annul the election results from these three areas.

The source in the high court said having failed in the three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental, Marcos cannot seek the third cause of action of annulment of votes in Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan.

Caguioa and retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio previously voted to dismiss Marcos' electoral protest due to the violation of the PET's Rule 65, which states a protestant should choose for recount not more than three provinces "best exemplifying the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition."

CNN Philippines senior correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.