Philippine Supreme Court Rejects Marcos Jr.’s Vice Presidential Challenge

Mark Navales and Luis Liwanag
Manila
2021-02-16
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Philippine Supreme Court Rejects Marcos Jr.’s Vice Presidential Challenge Filipino activists protest at the entrance of a heroes’ cemetery in Manila to ask the government to exhume the body of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, November 2018.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a legal challenge by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the country’s late dictator with the same name, to invalidate his 2016 election loss in the vice presidential race.

Marcos bitterly contested the results of the 2016 polls, and sought a recount of ballots in the election that he lost to Leni Robredo. Three years later, Robredo’s lead expanded by about 15,000 votes during a recount.

“The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, unanimously dismissed the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo,” Supreme Court spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka announced Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte considers the Marcos family as among his top political benefactors, and has publicly acknowledged them for their support when he won office in 2016.

Duterte has repeatedly said in public that he considers Marcos Jr. to be the real vice president, and backed his electoral protest. In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately. 

On Monday night, Duterte stepped up his attack on Robredo by criticizing her for contradicting his statements on security issues related to the Visiting Forces Agreement, a bilateral military pact with the United States. Last week, the president said the U.S. would have to pay to maintain the agreement.

“You, ma’am, I’m sorry to say, you are not really qualified to run for president. You do not know your role in this government,” Duterte said during a publicly televised cabinet meeting. 

On Tuesday, Robredo spoke to reporters to thank her supporters. Marcos and his family could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Even if they tried to tarnish the legitimacy of my mandate, the trust remained,” Robredo said, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Duterte administration respected the court’s ruling.

“That is the decision of the Supreme Court. We respect that and we respect also that the camp of Sen. Bongbong Marcos has a further remedy of moving for reconsideration,’ Roque told reporters. 

The top court is not known to reverse its rulings and the next presidential and vice presidential election will be held in 2022.

Ferdinand Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines for two decades, mostly under martial law. A “people power” revolt ended his regime in 1986, sending him into exile in Hawaii where he died three years later.

Marcos’ widow, Imelda, and their children were allowed to return home, where they have regained political clout. The Marcos family allegedly stole about U.S. $10 billion (483 billion pesos) from government coffers during his regime. Of that amount, the government has recovered only about $683 million (33 billion pesos), which had been stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

‘Long overdue’

Former rights commissioner Etta Rosales, who was raped and tortured by pro-Marcos forces during martial law, welcomed the court’s ruling but said it was “long overdue.”

She said Marcos Jr.’s political play from the start was to discredit Robredo, a former legislator and lawyer, and the likely opposition candidate in next year’s presidential election.

“But the courts have affirmed the will of the people – that good, reliable leaders like VP Robredo deserve their positions. Now we can proudly declare that Marcos failed to steal the vice-presidency,” Rosales told BenarNews.  

She said that Marcos and his family not only attempted to steal the vice presidency, but also expressed “disdain” for the right of every Filipino who voted for Robredo.

“Such is the same Marcos arrogance that has kept him unrepentant for the same five years for his family’s theft of the people’s money,” Rosales said. 

Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the Marcoses should accept the decision.

“We welcome the ruling although how we wish this had been resolved much sooner because it affirms what we have been saying from day one, which is that the allegations of cheating in the process were baseless,” he said.

Dennis Jay Santos contributed to this report from Davao City, Philippines.

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