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Consti Page 23-20 Legarda Vs De Castro 542 recomputation, recanvass and retabulation of

SCRA 125, (Jan. 18, 2008) the election returns to determine the true
result.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL
The Second Aspect required revision of ballots
P.E.T. Case No. 003 January 18, 2008 in 124,404 precincts specified in the protest.4

LOREN B. LEGARDA, protestant, The Tribunal confirmed its jurisdiction over the
vs. protest and denied the motion of protestee for
NOLI L. DE CASTRO, protestee. its outright dismissal. Protestee filed a motion
for reconsideration arguing in the main that
RESOLUTION the Tribunal erred in ruling that the protest
alleged a cause of action sufficient to contest
QUISUMBING, J.: protestee's victory in the May 2004 elections.5

On June 23, 2004, Congress sitting as the On March 31, 2005, the Tribunal ruled that:
National Board of Canvassers (NBC)
proclaimed1 protestee Noli L. de Castro the On the matter of sufficiency of the
duly elected Vice-President of the Republic of protest, protestee failed to adduce
the Philippines. The official count of the votes new substantial arguments to reverse
cast for Vice-President in the May 10, 2004 our ruling. We hold that while Peña v.
elections showed that the protestee obtained House of Representatives Electoral
the highest number of votes, garnering Tribunal on requisites of sufficiency of
15,100,431 votes as against the 14,218,709 election protest is still good law, it is
votes garnered by the protestant Loren B. inapplicable in this case. We dismissed
Legarda, who placed second, in a field the petition in Peña because it failed to
consisting of four candidates for Vice- specify the contested precincts. In the
President. instant protest, protestant
enumerated all the provinces,
On July 23, 2004, the protestant filed this municipalities and cities where she
protest with this Tribunal praying for the questions all the results in all the
annulment of the protestee's proclamation as precincts therein. The protest here is
the duly elected Vice-President of the Republic sufficient in form and substantively,
of the Philippines.2 serious enough on its face to pose a
challenge to protestee's title to his
The protest has two main parts. The First office. In our view, the instant protest
Aspect originally covered "all the erroneous, if consists of alleged ultimate facts, not
not manipulated, and falsified results as mere conclusions of law, that need to
reflected in the final canvass documents" for be proven in due time.
9,007 precincts in six provinces, one city and
five municipalities.3 Protestant avers that the Considering that we find the protest
correct results appearing in the election sufficient in form and substance, we
returns were not properly transferred and must again stress that nothing as yet
reflected in the subsequent election has been proved as to the veracity of
documents and ultimately, in the final canvass the allegations. The protest is only
of documents used as basis for protestee's sufficient for the Tribunal to proceed
proclamation. Protestant seeks the and give the protestant the
opportunity to prove her case pursuant

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to Rule 61 of the PET Rules. Although within 30 days hereof, the official
said rule only pertains to revision of project of precincts of the May 2004
ballots, nothing herein prevents the Elections.
Tribunal from allowing or including the
correction of manifest errors, pursuant SO ORDERED.6
to the Tribunal's rule-making power
under Section 4, Article VII of the On April 11, 2005, protestant identified three
Constitution. (3) provinces as pilot areas best exemplifying
her grounds for the First Aspect of the protest.
On a related matter, the protestant in She chose the provinces of Lanao del Sur,
her reiterating motion prays for ocular Lanao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur with the
inspection and inventory-taking of following number of protested precincts:
ballot boxes, and appointment of 1,607, 2,346 and 350, respectively, or a total of
watchers. However, the Tribunal has 4,303 out of the original 9,007 precincts.7
already ordered the protection and
safeguarding of the subject ballot On June 21, 2005, the Tribunal ascertained8 the
boxes; and it has issued also the number of ballot boxes subject of the protest,
appropriate directives to officials to wit:
concerned. At this point, we find no
showing of an imperative need for the The Tribunal Resolved to NOTE the
relief prayed for, since protective and Letter dated 30 May 2005 filed by
safeguard measures are already being Executive Director Pio Jose S. Joson,
undertaken by the custodians of the COMELEC, in compliance with the
subject ballot boxes. Letter dated 14 April 2005 of Atty.
Luzviminda D. Puno, Acting Clerk of the
WHEREFORE, protestee's motion for Tribunal, informing the Tribunal that
reconsideration is hereby DENIED one thousand four hundred fifty-four
WITH FINALITY for lack of merit. (1,454) ballot boxes are involved in the
Protestant's reiterating motion for precincts of the province of Surigao del
ocular inspection and inventory-taking Sur which the protestant has identified
with very urgent prayer for the to the Tribunal as best exemplifying
appointment of watchers is the irregularities in connection with
also DENIED for lack of showing as to the 10 May 2004 National and Local
its actual necessity. Elections.

Further, the protestant LOREN B. Accordingly, without prejudice to its


LEGARDA is ORDERED to specify, recomputation, the number of ballot
within ten (10) days from notice, the boxes involved in the precincts of the
three (3) provinces best exemplifying provinces which the protestant has
the manifest errors alleged in the first identified to the Tribunal as best
part of her protest, and three (3) exemplifying the irregularities in
provinces best exemplifying the frauds connection with the said elections are
and irregularities alleged in the second as follows:
part of her protest, for the purpose
herein elucidated. Lanao del Sur - 1,568

Lastly, the Tribunal hereby ORDERS the Lanao del Norte - 2,317
Commission on Elections to SUBMIT,

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Surigao del Sur - 1,454 Resolution of the Tribunal of 1 August
2006, under paragraph B (1 and 2).
Cebu City - 10,127
Pampanga - 5,458 The following are the appearances:
Maguindanao - 1,755
1) Protestant Loren B. Legarda,
Total - 22,679 ballot boxes involved in the precincts
in person;
x P500.00
P11,339,500.00 2) Atty. Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr.
and Atty. Jesus P. Casila, for
On November 2, 2005 protestant moved to the protestant;
withdraw and abandon almost all pilot
precincts in the First Aspect except those in the 3) Protestee Noli L. de Castro
province of Lanao del Sur.9 On November 22, did not appear;
2005, the Tribunal granted the said motion
withdrawing and abandoning the protest 4) Atty. Armando M. Marcelo
involving the manifest errors in the and Atty. Carlo Vistan, for the
municipalities of Lanao del Norte and Surigao protestee.
del Sur.10
Atty. Brillantes manifested that the
Thereafter, proceedings duly ensued protestant is ready to adduce
concerning both the First and Second Aspects. testimonial and documentary evidence
Former Associate Justice Bernardo P. Pardo as on a date to be scheduled and agreed
Hearing Commissioner11 heard the upon by the parties; they have about
presentation of evidence of both parties for seven witnesses to testify on the first
the First Aspect. Subpoenas were issued to the aspect as indicated in the Tribunal's
witnesses of the protestant, e.g. Resolution of 1 August 2006. He
suggested 6 September 2006 as the
the President/General Manager of Ernest initial date of the hearing. Atty.
Printing Corporation12 and then Commission Marcelo stated that he was leaving for
on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos.13 On abroad on 6 September 2006 for one
August 28, 2006, a preliminary conference was month and suggested a hearing after
called by Hearing Commissioner Bernardo P. his return in October 2006. At any rate,
Pardo to schedule the presentation of protestee has a pending motion for
evidence. The latter then ordered as follows: reconsideration of the Tribunal's
Resolution of 22 August 2006
Pursuant to the Resolution of the designating a retired Justice of the
Tribunal dated 22 August 2006, setting Supreme Court as Hearing
the preliminary conference of the Commissioner. They wanted an
parties with the Hearing Commissioner incumbent Justice of the Supreme
today, the designated Hearing Court or an official of the Tribunal who
Commissioner called the preliminary is a member of the Bar to be the
conference in order to consider the designated Hearing Commissioner.
order of hearing and presentation of
evidence of the parties according to The undersigned Hearing
the procedure prescribed in the Commissioner suggested that the
initial hearing be held on 4 September

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2006, at 10:00 a.m., when protestee's submitted by the Acting Clerk of the
counsel will still be in town, without Tribunal, Atty. Maria Luisa D.
prejudice to the resolution of the Villarama, the correction team was
Tribunal on his motion for able to re-tabulate only the ERs from
reconsideration. four (4) of the ten (10) protested
municipalities of Lanao del Sur,
The undersigned Hearing namely, Balindong, Masiu, Mulondo
Commissioner suggested to and Taraka. The ERs of the other six (6)
protestant's counsel to submit by this protested municipalities were not
afternoon the list of the names of the found inside the ballot boxes collected
proposed witnesses and documents to from the House of Representatives,
be produced so that the proper but found were the ERs from
process may be issued to them. municipalities not subject of the
protest.
The undersigned Hearing
Commissioner set the initial hearing Therefore, acting on the
tentatively on Monday, 4 September aforementioned report of the Acting
2006, at 10:00 a.m., at the same venue, Clerk, the Tribunal resolves
subject to the Tribunal's ruling on to REQUIRE Hon. Roberto Nazareno,
protestee's motion for reconsideration Secretary General of the House of
of the person of the Hearing Representatives and Atty. Artemio
Commissioner, and protestant to Adasa, Jr., Deputy Secretary General
submit by this afternoon the list of for Operation, of the House of
witnesses and documents to be Representatives, within a non-
produced at the hearing. extendible period of five (5) days from
notice, to
IT IS SO ORDERED.14
(a) DELIVER to the Tribunal the
Several hearings on the First Aspect were held election returns and other
wherein the protestant adduced evidence and election
the protestee interposed his continuing documents/paraphernalia used
objection to such in the form of motions and in the May 2004 National/Local
comments. Months of continuous trial took elections for the remaining six
place until the Hearing Commissioner made his (6) protested municipalities of
final report of the proceedings for detailed Lanao del Sur, namely (1)
consideration by the Tribunal. Bacolod-Kalawi; (2) Ganassi;
(3) Kapai; (4) Sultan Gumander;
On January 31, 2006, while the case was sub (5) Tamparan; and (6) Wao;
judice, the Tribunal ordered both parties to
refrain from sensationalizing the case in the (b) EXPLAIN why the election
media. Its extended resolution on the matter returns and other election
reads as follows: documents and paraphernalia
which were turned over to the
On December 12, 2005, the re- PET Retrieval Team are
tabulation of election returns (ERs) incomplete when compared to
from the ten (10) protested the COMELEC's total number of
municipalities of Lanao del Sur clustered precincts for Lanao
commenced. According to the report del Sur; and

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(c) SUBMIT to the Tribunal the (2) In an article entitled "Intel
complete list of all the election feelers offer proof of poll fraud
returns, Provincial/District to Loren" published in the
Certificates of Canvass and December 13, 2005 issue of
Statements of Votes and other The Daily Tribune, sources
election documents and from protestant's legal team
paraphernalia used in the May said that feelers from the
2004 National and Local military's intelligence service
Elections for the province of arm have reached their camp
Lanao del Sur which were in its offering videotapes of cheating
official custody. in the 2004 elections for a price
they cannot afford.
In the resolution dated December 6,
2005, the Tribunal granted protestant's (3) In another article entitled
motion to suspend the remittance of "Election returns altered inside
additional cash deposit amounting Congress-Loren" published in
to P3,882,000 as required in the the December 15, 2005 issue of
resolution of November 22, 2005. Philippine Daily Inquirer,
Protestant also manifested in said protestant claimed that the
motion that she will make the required altering of election returns
cash deposit sometime in the year from Lanao del Sur occurred
2006. Thus, the Tribunal resolves right inside Congress as borne
to REQUIRE protestant to comply with out by the "spurious" returns
the resolution of November 22, 2005 being retabulated by the
requiring her to make additional cash Tribunal. She said the crime
deposit of P3,882,000 within ten (10) could have been perpetrated
days. by the operatives of protestee.

On another matter, the Presidential (4) In a news article entitled


Electoral Tribunal notes the following "Cebu recount shows Noli,
news reports: Loren votes tally with NBC"
appearing in the January 6,
(1) In an article entitled 2006 issue of The Manila
"Recount shows fraud, says Times, Atty. Romulo
Legarda" appearing in the Macalintal, counsel of
December 13, 2005 issue of protestee, stated that "the
The Manila Times, protestant initial recount in Lapu-lapu
Legarda said that the election showed that there was no
returns from Congress had tampering of the ballot boxes
been tampered after initial in the city," and further noted
retabulation of votes by the that the four (4) out of the 40
Tribunal showed that the lead ballot boxes "contained
of protestee De Castro over her tampered or spurious ballots,
has widened. She added that but these are not connected to
this discovery confirmed her the protest of Senator Legarda
claim of massive poll fraud in but on local protests."
favor of protestee in the 2004
election.

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(5) In an article entitled "Noli (7) In an article entitled "GMA-
condemns tampering of Noli poll win in Cebu affirmed,"
ballots" appearing in the published in the January 19,
January 6, 2006 issue of Manila 2006 issue of The Philippine
Standard Today, Atty. Star, it was reported that Atty.
Armando Marcelo said that Macalintal, in his speech
their revisors at the PET before the Rotary Club of
discovered that several ballots Pasay City, denied protestant's
of Legarda had been claim that 90 percent of the
substituted with fake and ballots from two major cities of
spurious ballots. Atty. the province were found to be
Macalintal added that "the spurious by the Tribunal. He
substitution of ballots was so added that "if a candidate
clear, that the security would allow himself to be
markings of the substitute cheated by 90 percent, then he
ballots were not reflected or or she has no business to be in
visible or that the ultraviolet politics."
markings of the COMELEC seal
do not appear or are not (8) In an article entitled "Why
present", and that "these Noli is unacceptable"
ultraviolet markings are readily appearing in the January 20,
visible in a genuine ballot once 2006 issue of The Daily
lighted with an ultraviolet Tribune, protestant "told the
light." media that the real ballots
from Mandaue City and Lapu-
(6) In an article entitled "No lapu City were 'clearly
cheating in Cebu, Noli's lawyer substituted with fakes so that
insists," published in the they would correspond with
January 19, 2006 issue of the similarly spurious results
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Atty. reflected in the election
Macalintal said that "the returns (ERs).'"
results of the actual count of
the ballots for Legarda and De Surely, the parties do not harbor the
Castro from the cities of idea that the re-tabulation of election
Mandaue and Lapu-lapu tallied returns and revision of ballots is the
with the results as reflected in end of the election protest. They are
the election returns and tally merely the first phase of the process
boards. There was no sign of and must still pass closer scrutiny by
any tampering of the results of the Tribunal.
the ballot count as well as the
votes reflected on the returns The great public interest at stake
and tally boards." He also said behooves the Tribunal to exercise its
that protestant Legarda is power and render judgment free from
already estopped from public pressure and uninterrupted by
questioning the results of the the parties' penchant for media
election in these cities since mileage. Therefore, in view of the
she failed to object to the foregoing reports where press
returns. statements of both parties appeared as

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an attempt to influence the can be returned to the
proceedings, convince the public of Regional Trial Court of
their version of facts, and create bias, Mandaue City, at the earliest
prejudice and sympathies, the Tribunal time possible; and
resolves to WARN both parties and
counsels from making public (d) DENY the above Motion to
comments on all matters that are sub Intervene of
judice. Intervenor/Movant Amytis D.
Batao, with regard to the
Finally, acting on the pleadings filed in return of the ballot boxes
this electoral protest case, the Tribunal considering that the Tribunal
further Resolves to has priority in their possession
and examination." Ynares
(a) NOTE the Comment on Santiago, J., no part.15
Protestee's Motion to Allow
Revisors to Examine All Revision of ballots was also conducted for
Ballots dated January 24, 2006, the Second Aspect in the Tribunal's premises
filed by counsel for protestant by the duly designated officials and trained
Legarda, in compliance with personnel with both parties duly represented.
the resolution of January 17, After ten months of continuous work by
2006, informing the Tribunal twenty-four revision teams, under the
that she interposes no supervision of Atty. Orlando Cariño as the
objection and opposition to designated Consultant, the revision of the
the motion and GRANT the ballots from the pilot province of Cebu was
aforesaid motion of the completed. Revision also started for the
protestee; second pilot province of Pampanga, but was
suspended after the Tribunal granted the
(b) DIRECT all Head Revisors protestee's Motion for Partial Determination
to ALLOW the parties to of Election Protest Based on the Results of the
examine the ballots within a Revision of Ballots of the Province of Cebu and
reasonable time; the Recanvass of Election Returns from Lanao
Del Sur and to Hold in Abeyance Revision of
(c) NOTE the Manifestation dat Ballots from Pampanga.16
ed January 24, 2006, filed by
counsel for protestant relative On May 3, 2007, the protestant was required
to the Motion to Intervene to deposit P3,914,500 for expenses necessary
filed by Intervenor/Movant for the continuation of the revision of
Amytis D. Batao, informing the ballots.17 But protestant failed to pay on the
Tribunal that she is not waiving due date. Thus, protestee moved to dismiss
the revision of the thirty-five the protest. The Tribunal extended the period
(35) ballot boxes subject of the for protestant to make the necessary deposit.
electoral protest for the Even with this extension, she still failed to pay.
mayoralty post of Carmen, Thus, in a Resolution dated June 5, 2007, the
Cebu, and proposing that Tribunal partially granted the protestee's
priority be given and extended motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 3318 of PET
to the same so that upon rules, and ordered the dismissal of the Second
completion of the revision by Aspect of the protest as follows:
the Tribunal, said ballot boxes

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PET Case No. 003 (Loren B. Legarda vs. On October 1, 2007, Hearing Commissioner
Noli L. de Castro). - Acting on the Bernardo P. Pardo submitted his Final Report
protestee's Motion to Dismiss dated of the Proceedings on the First Aspect. After a
May 9, 2007, the Tribunal Resolved to thorough analysis of the parties' memoranda
and the results of the proceedings on the
(a) PARTIALLY GRANT the protest, he recommended the dismissal of
aforesaid motion pursuant to the First Aspect.26
Rule 33 of the 2005 PET Rules;
and For her part, protestant filed a memorandum
stating that based on the pieces of evidence
(b) DISMISS the second aspect she presented, both documentary and
of the protest (revision of testimonial, she has shown that electoral fraud
ballots), for protestant's failure or cheating was committed through the so-
to make the required deposit. called dagdag-bawas strategy in the elections
for President and Vice-President held last May
The Tribunal further Resolved 14, 2004. Protestant in particular submitted
to DENY the request of Atty. Eric C. that electoral fraud was perpetuated as
Reginaldo in his letter dated May 29, follows:
2007 that he be furnished with a copy
of the petition in this case for case 1. That the correct votes of the parties
study, as he is neither a party nor a were properly recorded and tabulated
counsel of any party in this protest.19 in the election returns (ERs), wherein
she garnered a higher number of votes
On June 13, 2007, Hearing Commissioner over protestee De Castro;27
Bernardo P. Pardo submitted to the Tribunal a
Report of the Proceedings of the First Aspect.20 2. That when the ERs were canvassed
at the municipal level, the ER results
On June 18 2007, protestant filed an Urgent were "wrongly and erroneously"
Motion to Resolve First Aspect of the Protest, transposed and transferred to the
stating that she formally moved for the Statement of Votes by Precinct (SOV-
immediate resolution of the submitted portion P), such that the protestee was given a
of the First Aspect of the protest.21 Protestee higher number of votes;28
did not interpose any objection to this motion.
3. That the inaccurate results shown in
On July 10, 2007, the Tribunal resolved to note the SOV-P were totaled and
the report of the Hearing Commissioner. In transferred to the Municipal Certificate
response to the motion filed by the protestant, of Canvass (MCOC), with protestee
the Tribunal required the parties to submit prevailing over protestant;29
their respective memoranda within twenty
days from notice, pursuant to Rule 6122 of the 4. That the MCOC, with incorrect
PET Rules.23 totals, was transmitted to the
Provincial Board of Canvassers,
On August 2, 2007, by counsel protestant wherein the inaccurate MCOC totals
submitted her memorandum.24 On August 16, were transposed to the Statement of
2007, also by counsel protestee filed his Votes by Municipalities (SOV-M);30
memorandum.25
5. That the numbers reflected in the
individual SOV-Ms were totaled, and

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the sum for the whole province was shown that such fraudulent machination was
indicated in the Provincial Certificate replicated in several other municipalities of
of Canvass (PCOC);31 Lanao del Sur and other provinces, such as
Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Sultan
6. That the PCOCs, with the Kudarat, and Lanao del Sur if she had enough
erroneously transposed totals time.
stemming from the incorrect SOV-Ps,
were the ones canvassed by Congress, Protestee, for his part, argues that the
acting as the National Board of Congress-retrieved ERs are public documents
Canvassers for the presidential and as defined under Section 19 (a),34 Rule 132 of
vice-presidential positions;32 and the Rules of Court, and thus, they enjoy the
presumption of regularity accorded thereto,
7. That Congress, sitting as the and they are prima facie evidence of the facts
National Board of Canvassers, merely stated therein. He avers that there is prima
"noted" and denied protestant's facie presumption that the Congress-retrieved
request to view the precinct-source copies of the ERs are genuine, authentic and
ERs, and proceeded to canvass the duly executed. Protestee submits that
"already-manipulated/dagdag-bawas" protestant has failed to rebut such
PCOCs, resulting in the flawed and presumption with clear and convincing
farcical victory of protestee De evidence.
Castro.33
Protestee adds that a blank or unused ER form
Protestant avers that fraud, by means of the duly authenticated by the COMELEC, with the
anomalous election practices, was sufficiently correct and complete set of security features
proven by using her sample-pilot precincts in and markings, should have been marked and
two municipalities in Lanao del Sur, offered as evidence, to serve as basis for
particularly Balindong and Taraka. She likewise comparison with the various sets of ERs
alleges that the "dagdag-bawas" scheme, presented to prove the genuiness of the
which was perpetrated through the deliberate security features and markings in the ER forms.
and erroneous transposition of results from On this score, according to protestee, the
the authentic ERs to the SOV-Ps, was further protestant's counsel has failed in his task. At
aggravated by an alleged cover-up operation any rate, protestee points out that the
to hide the same. According to protestant, the witnesses presented by protestant, i.e.,
Congress-retrieved copies of the ERs which COMELEC Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos and
tally with the SOV-Ps, were fake and spurious; Mr. Robert Payongayong of the Ernest Printing
they were intended to cover-up the electoral Corporation, testified that they were able to
fraud committed. Protestant submits that the discern security features and markings in the
correct voting results are those reflected in the Congress-retrieved copies of the ERs. Protestee
COMELEC and NAMFREL's copies of the ERs, also claims that when Mr. Payongayong
not those in the copies retrieved from testified about the security features on the
Congress. Congress' copies, he was shown only a sample
set thereof, and was not able to examine all
Protestant further claims that while she Congress' copies being contested. Protestee
presented pieces of evidence, both testimonial thus concludes that the Tribunal cannot rely on
and documentary, in only two municipalities of the testimonies of the protestant's witnesses
Lanao del Sur, i.e., Balindong and Taraka, to debunking the authenticity of the Congress-
prove the electoral fraud perpetrated through retrieved copies vis-à-vis the other sets of ER
the dagdag-bawas strategy, she could have copies.

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Protestee further contends that, substantiate sufficiently her claim that the
assuming arguendo that the results reflected Congress-retrieved ERs are spurious and were
in the COMELEC, NAMFREL and switched with the authentic copies during an
MBOC's35 copies of the ERs are re-tabulated, in alleged break-in at the storage area of the
lieu of the results in the Congress-retrieved House of Representatives as no evidence was
copies, or even if all the votes in the 497 presented to prove such break-in. Hence, the
precincts included in the pilot areas, as well as alleged discrepancies found in NAMFREL,
in the remaining protested precincts in MBOC and COMELEC's copies of the ERs are
the First Aspect, are counted in favor of insufficient to exclude the Congress-retrieved
protestant, said votes would be insufficient to ER copies from the re-tabulation. The Hearing
overcome the lead of the protestee totaling Commissioner also observed that in 11 out of
881,722 votes. Hence, in view of the failure of the 51 precincts in Balindong, Lanao del Sur,
the protestant to make out her case for there are similar entries in the Congress-
the First Aspect of the protest, the same and retrieved ERs and in the COMELEC's copies of
ultimately the protest in its entirety, must be the ERs, where protestant garnered a higher
dismissed without consideration of the other number of votes over protestee, while the
provinces mentioned. entries in the respective SOV-Ms are different
in that the protestee received more votes,
The Hearing Commissioner further belying protestant's assertion that the
recommended, following the precedent set Congress-retrieved ERs should all be
in Defensor-Santiago v. Ramos,36 that the disregarded since the results therein differ
protest be dismissed for being moot and from those in the COMELEC's copies of ERs and
academic due to abandonment and that they have been manipulated to favor
withdrawal resulting from protestant's protestee. Consequently, according to the
election and assumption of office as senator. Hearing Commissioner's report, protestant
He also emphasized that assuming failed to make out her case.
that dagdag-bawas had indeed occurred and
that the results in the COMELEC's ER copies Thus, the Hearing Commissioner
indicated in Annex "A" were to be used for re- recommended that the protestant's Motion to
tabulation, protestant would be entitled to an Resolve the First Aspect of the Protest under
additional 4,912 votes for the municipality of consideration should be denied, and
Taraka and 5,019 votes for Balindong, or a consequently, the protest itself, be dismissed
total of 9,931 votes, which is not adequate to for lack of legal and factual basis, as the pilot-
surpass protestee's lead of 881,722 votes over tested revision of ballots or re-tabulation of
protestant. the certificates of canvass would not affect the
winning margin of the protestee in the final
On protestant's charges of electoral fraud canvass of the returns, in addition to the
allegedly aggravated by a cover-up operation ground of abandonment or withdrawal by
that switched or exchanged the Congress' ER reason of her candidacy for, election and
copies with spurious ones, the Hearing assumption of office as Senator of the
Commissioner stressed that the Congress- Philippines.37
retrieved ERs are public documents which
enjoy the presumption of regularity and After thorough deliberation and consideration
are prima facie evidence of the facts stated of the issues in this case, this Tribunal finds the
therein. He concluded that the protestant abovestated recommendations of its Hearing
failed to adequately and convincingly rebut the Commissioner well-taken, and adopts them for
presumption. The Hearing Commissioner also its own.
emphasized that protestant failed to

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Further, we are also in agreement that the implications thereof, on the following
protestant, in assuming the office of Senator grounds:
and discharging her duties as such, which fact
we can take judicial notice of,38 has effectively (1) The petition is insufficient
abandoned or withdrawn her protest, or in form and substance;
abandoned her determination to protect and
pursue the public interest involved in the (2) The petition is filed beyond
matter of who is the real choice of the the periods provided in Rules
electorate. The most relevant precedent on 14 and 15 hereof;
this issue is Defensor-Santiago v. Ramos,39 a
decision rendered by this Tribunal, which held (3) The filing fee is not paid
that: within the periods provided for
in these Rules;
The term of office of the Senators
elected in the 8 May 1995 election is (4) The cash deposit, or the
six years, the first three of which first P100,000.00 thereof, is
coincides with the last three years of not paid within 10 days after
the term of the President elected in the filing of the protest; and
the 11 May 1992 synchronized
elections. The latter would be (5) The petition or copies
Protestant Santiago's term if she thereof and the annexes
would succeed in proving in the instant thereto filed with the Tribunal
protest that she was the true winner in are not clearly legible.
the 1992 elections. In assuming the
office of Senator then, the Protestant Other grounds for a motion to
has effectively abandoned or dismiss, e.g., those provided in the
withdrawn this protest, or at the very Rules of Court which apply in a
least, in the language of Moraleja, suppletory character, may likewise be
abandoned her "determination to pleaded as affirmative defenses in the
protect and pursue the public interest answer. After which, the Tribunal may,
involved in the matter of who is the in its discretion, hold a preliminary
real choice of the electorate." Such hearing on such grounds. In sum, if an
abandonment or withdrawal operates election protest may be dismissed on
to render moot the instant protest. technical grounds, then it must be, for
Moreover, the dismissal of this protest a decidedly stronger reason, if it has
would serve public interest as it would become moot due to its abandonment
dissipate the aura of uncertainty as to by the Protestant.40
the results of the 1992 presidential
election, thereby enhancing the all- In the case at bar, protestant's tenure in the
[too] crucial political stability of the Senate coincides with the term of the Vice-
nation during this period of national Presidency 2004-2010, that is the subject of
recovery. her protest. In Defensor-Santiago v. Ramos,
the protestant's tenure in the Senate also
It must also be stressed that under the coincided with the term of the Presidency she
Rules of the Presidential Electoral was vying for. Like the protestant in the
Tribunal, an election protest may be aforementioned case, the protestant in the
summarily dismissed, regardless of the case at bar filed her certificate of candidacy for
public policy and public interest

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the Senate, campaigned for the office, categorically denied that a break-in and a
assumed office after election, and discharged switching of ERs had occurred in Congress.42
the duties and functions of said office. Thus,
we agree concerning the applicability of At any rate, as pointed out by protestee, even
the Defensor-Santiago case as a precedent in assuming arguendo that all the votes in the
the resolution of the present protest, though 497 precincts included in the pilot areas for
they differ in that Defensor-Santiago's case the First Aspect with approximately 99,400
involves the Presidency while Legarda's votes are considered in favor of protestant,
protest concerns only the Vice-Presidency. still the protestant would not be able to
overcome the lead of the protestee. The
On the matter of the alleged spurious ER margin in favor of protestee adds up to a total
copies, we agree with the protestee that the of 881,722 votes, and it would take much more
protestant had not adequately and than a hundred thousand votes to overcome
convincingly rebutted the presumption that as this lead. This is what the protestant had set
public documents, the Congress-retrieved ER out to do in her protest before the Tribunal,
copies, used for the proclamation of the but unfortunately she failed to make out her
protestee by the NBC, are authentic and duly case.43 In fact, Taraka and Balindong, the only
executed in the regular course of official two municipalities on which protestant
business. The evidence adduced by protestee anchors her arguments for the First Aspect,
to show that the supposed security features would only yield an additional 9,931 votes
and markings in the Congress-retrieved ERs (4,912 votes for Taraka and 5,019 votes for
and the COMELEC/NAMFREL's copies are Balindong), a mere fraction of the lead of
different, did not categorically establish that protestee over protestant. To say that she
the Congress-retrieved ERs are fake and could have shown that such fraudulent
spurious. To overcome the presumption of machination was replicated in several other
regularity, there must be evidence that is clear, municipalities of Lanao del Sur and other
convincing and more than merely provinces, such as Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi,
preponderant. Absent such convincing Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del
evidence, the presumption must be Sur if she had enough time, is mere conjecture
upheld.41 In fact, the records show that even and can not be considered convincing by this
the witnesses presented by the protestant Tribunal. It is the protestant herself who
testified that they were able to discern admits that she was able to adduce evidence
security features and markings in the only in Taraka and Balindong, for lack of time.
Congress-retrieved ERs. The records also show But this Tribunal has been liberal in granting
that witnesses were not made to examine all her plea for time extension. To say that the
Congress-retrieved ERs in making observations protestant had shown enough evidence to
relative to security features and markings, but prove that the whole or even half
only a sample set thereof was utilized, (440,862)44 of the lead of the protestee over
resulting in grave insufficiency in the evidence the protestant is spurious, would go against
presented by protestant. the grain of the evidence on hand. One cannot
say that half a million votes were illegally
As to the alleged break-in in Congress, which obtained based on unclear evidence of
allegedly facilitated the switching of ERs, no cheating in less than ten thousand. The
conclusive evidence has been given. One of the protestant has been afforded ample
protestant's own witnesses, Atty. Artemio opportunity to adduce evidence in her behalf
Adasa, Deputy General for Legislative for the First Aspect of the protest but the
Operations of the House of Representatives, evidence presented is simply insufficient to
convince the Tribunal to render invalid all or

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even half of the 881,722 votes that protestee
had over her in the last elections for Vice-
President.

WHEREFORE, the First Aspect of the protest is


hereby DISMISSED for lack of legal and factual
basis, as the pilot-tested revision of ballots or
re-tabulation of the certificates of canvass
would not affect the winning margin of the
protestee in the final canvass of the returns, in
addition to the ground of abandonment or
withdrawal by reason of protestant's
candidacy for, election to and assumption of
the office of Senator of the Philippines.
The Second Aspect, having been already
DISMISSED on June 5, 2007, pursuant to Rule
33 of this Tribunal, the entire Protest is now
deemed DISMISSED and TERMINATED.

SO ORDERED.

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