In a bid to expedite the election protest proceedings,the camp of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has asked the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to designate at least three officers to help in the preliminary conference, a statement from his office said on Tuesday, May 16.
In a seven-page Urgent Ex-Parte Motion to Designate Hearing Commissioners, Marcos, through his counsel George Erwin Garcia, said the designation of at least three hearing commissioners would “better facilitate an orderly, simplified and expeditious disposition of this electoral contest considering that there are three (3) causes of action raised in this election protest.”
The tribunal in an order dated April 25 set the preliminary conference on June 21 at 2 p.m.
Marcos had raised three main issues in his election protest, namely the “flawed” Automated Election System (AES), the failure of elections in several provinces in Mindanao and the unauthorized introduction by Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia of a new hash code (or a new script / program) into the Transparency Server on the day of the elections.
Garcia said it was most important that a hearing officer be assigned for each cause of action “so as not to muddle the proceedings” as they were planning to present a specific set of witnesses and documentary exhibits per cause of action.
He also reiterated the need for Marcos’ election protest to be decided with dispatch and pointed out that the designation of three separate hearing officers would certainly aid the tribunal in resolving the case in a prompt and efficient manner.
“Public interest demands that this electoral controversy be resolved with dispatch to determine once and for all the genuine choice of the electorate for the contested position. The designation of three hearing commissioners, as suggested by protestant Marcos, shall surely aid this Honorable Tribunal in achieving its mandate to ensure a prompt and expeditious resolution of this election protest,” Garcia said.
He said the designation of hearing officers prior to the conduct of the preliminary conference is consistent with the summary nature and preferential status of election protest cases.
“In a long line of decided cases, this Honorable Tribunal has consistently ruled that an election case, unlike an ordinary action, is imbued with public interest since it involves not only the adjudication of the private interests of rival candidates but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty which beclouds the real choice of the electorate with respect to who shall discharge the prerogatives of the office within their gift.”
“Moreover, it is neither fair nor just to keep in office for an uncertain period one whose right to it is under suspicion. It is imperative that his claim be immediately cleared not only for the benefit of the winner but for the sake of public interest, which can only be achieved by brushing aside technicalities of procedure which protract and delay the trial of an ordinary action.” Garcia concluded.
It will be recalled that in the election protest of Liberal Party stalwart Manuel Roxas against former Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, scheduled Roxas’ preliminary conference barely two months after he filed his election protest against Binay.
In the case of Marcos, however, his preliminary conference was only scheduled only recently — over a year after he filed his election protest against Robredo.