SC upheld Noli’s victory over Loren

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has junked with finality the appeal of Senator Loren Legarda seeking a reconsideration of its Jan. 18 decision dismissing her election protest against Vice President Noli de Castro.

In a two-page resolution issued Feb. 12, the PET said that Legarda failed to present new arguments or evidence to warrant the reversal of the ruling.

De Castro said the high court’s resolution confirmed his oft-repeated statement that he did not cheat in the 2004 vice presidential contest, and that he won it fair and square.

The PET’s resolution removes all doubt as to the legitimacy of De Castro’s proclamation as the duly elected vice president in the 2004 polls, his lawyer said. “We are glad this baseless protest had been finally resolved so we can move forward to a better political climate in our country,” De Castro’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said.

The PET earlier dismissed and terminated the entire election protest of Legarda against De Castro, not only because she abandoned the case when she ran for senator in the 2007 national elections, but also failed to prove that she was cheated in the 2004 elections.

In a 20-page resolution dated Jan. 18, the PET through Senior Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing dismissed for lack of legal and factual basis the “first aspect” of Legarda’s protest involving the correction of manifest errors of the certificates of canvass and election returns from Congress sitting as the National Board of Canvassers.

The electoral tribunal adopted the recommendation of hearing commissioner and former Commission on Elections chairman, retired Associate Justice Bernardo Pardo, that “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 and assumption of the office as senator of the Philippines.”

The second aspect of Legarda’s election protest concerning the revision of ballots in 124,404 precincts had been dismissed on June 5, 2007 pursuant to Rule 33 of the PET due to Legarda’s failure to deposit the P3.9 million to continue the revision of ballots despite extension.

“The entire protest is now deemed dismissed and terminated,” the PET resolution stated.

Citing Defensor Santiago vs. Ramos, the PET stressed that Legarda effectively abandoned or withdrew her protest when she ran in the Senate, whose term coincides with the term of the vice presidency from 2004 to 2010.