Robredo widens lead over Marcos in recount in 3 pilot provinces

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Vice President Leni Robredo increased her lead over defeated 2016 rival Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr in the Supreme Court's recount of votes in the 3 pilot provinces in the electoral protest filed by the former senator.  

The High Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), decided early this week to release the report on how it had dealt with Marcos' second cause of action in the protest, including the results of the recount of votes in the 3 pilot provinces picked by Marcos: Negros Oriental, Iloilo, and Camarines Sur.

It showed Robredo with 1,510,178 votes now from the 3 provinces compared to Marcos' 204,512 votes. In 2016, Robredo got 1,493,517 votes in these areas against Marcos' 202,136 votes. 

The additional number in her votes come from ballots initially counted as stray for not following the 50% shading threshold. They were credited to her when the tribunal ruled to follow the 25% shading threshold.

The 3 pilot provinces chosen by Marcos were also known to be Robredo’s bailiwicks.

These new numbers bring the national count to 14,436,337 votes for Robredo and 14,157,771  for Marcos, with Robredo maintaining a lead.  

Robredo defeated Marcos by just 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential elections, prompting the latter to allege cheating and file an electoral protest against her. With an additional 15,093 votes from the recount, Robredo's lead in the national count increases to 278,566 votes.

Next steps?

Despite this, the PET did not decide yet on whether to dismiss or continue hearing the protest based on the results of the initial recount, which was part of Marcos’ 2nd cause of action. It only asked both parties to comment on the report and on Marcos' 3rd cause of action to have the results in 3 other provinces – Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao –nullified. (The PET earlier junked Marcos' first cause of action, which was to question the integrity of the 2016 elections.)

It is Robredo's position that if the recount of the pilot provinces picked by Marcos himself shows no substantial recovery of votes for Marcos, the protest should be dismissed altogether, without regard for his 3rd cause of action, the examination of election records in the 3 Mindanao provinces. (READ: Who won this round? Marcos calls latest PET action ‘good result’ | Why Marcos wants SC to investigate election materials in 3 Mindanao provinces)

This is based on Rule 65 of the PET rules from 2010 says that, if there is no substantial recovery from Marcos' chosen 3 pilot provinces, "the protest may forthwith be dismissed, without further consideration of the other provinces mentioned in the protest."

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa took this position, voting to dismiss Marcos' protest altogether.

"The majority puts forward questions the answers to which are already obvious. By this failure to recognize the mandate, public purpose and wisdom of Rule 65's unequivocal directive, all the hard work and effort put into the revision and appreciation for the past three years are wasted," Caguioa said in his dissenting opinon.

Robredo garnered a total of 477,985 votes in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Maguindanao against Marcos' 169,160 votes. If these are nullified, Robredo’s slim lead in the original national count would be wiped out. Marcos would lead by 45,352 votes, plus or minus any votes that either side recovers courtesy of the lowered shading threshold. 

Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez, however, described as “outrageous” the additional votes for Robredo found in Caguioa’s report.

“Precisely why the majority of the tribunal, by a very decisive 11-2 vote, emphatically junked that Caguioa minority opinion favoring Mrs Robredo, finding the figures presented before them to be outrageous and ordered the election protest to proceed with the parties to file their comment and memoranda,” Rodriguez said in a statement Friday.  Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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