Published on August 15, 2017 but, apparently, germane again, now that former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has accused the Presidential Electoral Tribunal of bias. If you believe that, I have a bridge, in San Juanico, that I’m selling.
I have read the transcript of the first preliminary conference conducted by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the Supreme Court convened as an election protest forum) on the Marcos vs Robredo case. I have compared both the direction and the specifics of the discussion with the post-conference statements made by both parties to the election protest—and can only conclude that former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his camp are lying.
Some readers who may remember that I wrote a column explaining why I was voting for Leni Robredo as vice president may characterize my conclusion as prejudiced. (I also voted for Grace Poe, as president.) But in fact, while I have conducted a live interview with Marcos with the requisite professionalism, I see his and his family’s insidious career in politics as built on lies. The statements made after the July 11 preliminary conference offer additional proof, if more proof were needed.
Marcos told reporters at a press briefing: “What is clear with the justices is that they are very interested in proceeding to the arguments and finally to the revision of the counting of votes. We are thankful that the justices are also interested in how to speed up the process so that our people will really know the real count of votes.”
His lead counsel, the famous election lawyer George Garcia, offered a variation on the same theme of urgency. “Good thing the Tribunal really wanted to open the ballot boxes because they really wanted to find out the truth.” He added: “The Tribunal is hell-bent [on] proceeding with the case… It’s good that the Tribunal disregarded the issues raised by the other parties.” I met Garcia when he represented Poe’s presidential campaign; he struck me as eminently competent but nonconfrontational; I understand his misleading summary of what transpired at the preliminary conference as made under the baleful influence of the Marcos family tradition.
It is true that the Tribunal is “hell-bent” on opening the ballot boxes — but it was the Marcos side that sought to deliberately slow the justices down.
At one point, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen asked Garcia: “And you insist that the First Cause of Action should be taken up by the Tribunal. Is there a way that you might want to withdraw the First Cause of Action so that we can proceed immediately only to the Second and the Third Cause of Action?”
Garcia responded: “Your Honor, as far as this representation is concerned and as far as the protestant is concerned, we are not willing to give up the First Cause of Action, Your Honor. We are in fact asking, with all due respect to the Honorable Tribunal, to proceed with the First Cause of Action simultaneously with the Second and Third, Your Honor.”
The representation is Garcia; the protestant is Marcos. The First Cause of Action of their election protest is to declare as inauthentic all the certificates of canvass used by Congress to proclaim Robredo as vice president. The Second and Third Causes (which the ponente in the case, Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, determined from the original, composite Second Cause) are the annulment of election results in three provinces and the judicial recount and revision of ballots in 22 provinces and five cities.
But the certificates of canvass used to proclaim Robredo were the exact same certificates used to proclaim Rodrigo Duterte as president. Hence, Leonen’s question about whether a “surgical annulment” was even possible, to “separate the votes of the President from the Vice President … when considering the same certificate of canvass.” (The answer was no.)
Caguioa, saying he was “bothered” by the Marcos theory of surgical annulment, asked Garcia to consider suspending the First Cause while proceeding with the Second and Third. “What I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be better to do the revision first because that will have an impact or bearing on whether or not your first cause of action is in fact valid or not?”
In the end, Garcia finally had to concede. Just to be clear: It was the Marcos camp that wanted to probe the integrity of the automated vote in 2016, which would mean a years-long examination of over 90,000 voting machines, etc. Then they met the press and said they wanted a speedier process all along. Just the Marcoses being economical with the truth.