Marcos, not taxpayers, should pay P2B for retaining the VCMs for his poll protest – Robredo to PET

September 5, 2017 - 2:44 PM
Leni Robredo at SC counter-poll protest
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal (standing) accompanies Vice President Leni Robredo to the Supreme Court in this May 2, 2017 file photo. HANDOUT PHOTO FROM OVP

MANILA – Former Senator Ferdinand Marcos should be required to deposit P2 billion – covering the cost of Comelec’s retention of 92,509 vote-counting machines and other equipment used in the 2016 election – since he is the one who wanted the poll body to retain custody of the VCMs for his pending election protest.

That’s the gist of an urgent manifestation and motion filed by Vice-President Leni Robredo through her lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Maria Bernadette Sardillo before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

In it, she cited Marcos’ various manifestations asking the tribunal to direct the Comelec to retain custody of the VCMs because he intends to subject them to “technical examination, forensic investigation, verification and analysis.” The PET granted that when it issued a Precautionary Protection Order on June 12, 2016 directing Comelec to preserve and safeguard said equipment.”

“The same request and reason for retention of these VCMs was reiterated by Marcos’ lawyer George Garcia during the preliminary conference at the PET on July 11, 2017”, Macalintal added.

“Thus, we asked the PET to immediately resolve our earlier and pending clarification whether Marcos should be held liable for the P2 billion cost of the retention of said VCMs by the Comelec or a resolution be issued directing Marcos to deposit the said amount”, Macalintal said.

Macalintal said their motion is consistent with the ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribubal (SET) in the election protest filed by former MMDA Francis Tolentino against Senator Leila De Lima, “where the SET directed Tolentino to deposit the amount of P2.2 million pesos representing the cost of the retention by the Comelec of the 106 VCMs subject of Tolentino’s protest.”

In its May 25, 2017 manifestation filed before the PET, the Comelec informed the PET that “it may be required to pay a total of P2.08 billion on account of Marco’s election protest” and that under the AES contract, such obligation “is without prejudice to Comelec requiring the protestant to shoulder such costs.”

Comelec explained earlier it may have to pay Smartmatic P2.08 billion if it opts to keep the VCMs in its warehouse, because such retention violates their contract mandating Comelec to return by December 2016 the VCMs used in the May 2016 polls.

Macalintal said that “since Marcos took the same position of Tolentino in asking for the retention of these VCMs and since it is very clear that Comelec retained custody thereof on account of Marcos’ protest and his repeated demand to retain the said machines, it would be very unfair if the entire Filipino people would be the ones to shoulder the said 2 billion pesos just to sustain Marcos’ self-serving unmeritorious and baseless election protest.”

In the case of Tolentino, no public funds were used for the cost retaining the VCMs involved in his protest; hence, Macalintal said, the same should apply in Marcos’ election protest: no centavo of public funds should be used to pay for the retention of the 92,509 VCMs involved in Marcos protest.