Roque on SolGen interference in VP poll protest: Done in nation’s interest

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 10) — Malacañang on Tuesday shrugged off criticisms against Solicitor General (SolGen) Jose Calida for meddling in the vice-presidential poll protest.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said it is within the SolGen's mandate to weigh in on issues that concern Filipinos, such as finding out the "legal" winner in the contested race between Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Bongbong Marcos.

"He is the statutory counsel for the government and he has an interest in knowing who legally won in the vice-presidential election or we have an interest as a nation to find out if there is merit in that election protest," he said in a media briefing.

Hours after defeated candidate Marcos filed a motion on Monday for Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen to inhibit from deliberations on the poll protest against Robredo due to his alleged bias, Calida also lodged a similar motion.

Marcos denied he was in cahoots with Calida. This was not the first time Calida sided with Marcos on the election protest. Earlier this month, he said the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, can declare an annulment of election — which is the third cause of action in Marcos' petition.

Robredo's camp plans to question before the Supreme Court the “suspicious” motion filed by Calida.

Roque, meanwhile, denied that President Rodrigo Duterte was involved in the interference of Calida on the poll protest.

"He does not micromanage, hinahayaan niya ang kanyang gabinete na umakto [He allows his Cabinet to decide]," the spokesman said.

Marcos lodged an electoral protest against Robredo on June 30, 2016, questioning the results of the May 2016 polls. Robredo defeated Marcos by just 263,473 votes. A recount began in April 2018 in the pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental. Following the recount, the electoral tribunal later found that Robredo’s lead grew by around 15,000 votes.

Marcos is now seeking to nullify votes from Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao. Former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa previously voted to dismiss Marcos' electoral protest due to the violation of PET's Rule 65, which states that a protestant should choose for recount not more than three provinces "best exemplifying the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition."