Marcos camp asks PET to designate 3 hearing officers in poll protest

In a bid to expedite the much-delayed 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 hearing officers who will assist the Tribunal during the preliminary conference.

In a 7-page Urgent Ex-Parte Motion to Designate Hearing Commissioners, Marcos, through his counsel George Erwin Garcia, said the designation of at least three (3) hearing commissioners “will 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 25 April 2017, had set the preliminary conference on 21 June 2017 at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. 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 is most important that a hearing officer be assigned for each cause of action “so as not to muddle the proceedings” as they intend 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 3 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 3 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 pointed out.

He further stated that the designation of hearing officers prior to the conduct of the preliminary conference in 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 Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), scheduled Roxas’ preliminary conference barely 2 months after he filed his election protest against Binay. In the case of Marcos, however, his preliminary conference was only recently scheduled on 21 June 2017 — over a year after he filed his election protest against Robredo. (Press Release)