Article excerpt

The 2007 elections No. 1 Senator, Loren Legarda, has a thing or two for newly appointed Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo who will find it, probably, parallel to his views.

She said in a statement:

"As a senator advocating clean and honest elections, I will initiate a thorough review of existing laws, rules and regulations on the conduct of election protests, especially on the matter of presenting evidence.

"Our ultimate objective would be to ensure clean and honest elections by having enough safeguards to combat those who seek to subvert the electoral process and the truth through fraud."

Wise words. Profound phrases. Daring statement.

The Comelec's head-designate in whose integrity many pin their hopes of a fraud-free poll body, the thought-provoking declaration of Senator Loren will challenge the entire term of the former associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Those declarations of the lady lawmaker are just starters. The raging issue at hand is the disputed decision of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal released last January 25.

Immediately after the PET dismissed Senator Loren Legarda's electoral protest against the election of Vice President Noli de Castro in the 2004 polls, men of probity, retired Supreme Court Justice Artemio Panganiban criticized it, and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio did not agree, in part, with the ruling.

"I feel vindicated by the opinion expressed by Chief Justice Panganiban in his newspaper column (on January 27), saying that he would have voted with Justice Antonio T. Carpio on basing the dismissal of the electoral protest on the ground of 'abandonment' alone," says Senator Loren.

She was referring to the concurring opinion of Justice Carpio in the decision dismissing her electoral protest on the "sole reason" of "abandonment." In his newspaper column, Panganiban stated that by "taking her oath as senator, Legarda effectively abandoned her complaint against de Castro."

Panganiban wrote that "with due respect, however, I disagree with the Supreme Court (acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal or PET) junking the election protest of Sen. Loren Legarda 'for lack of legal and factual basis.""

Chief Justice Panganiban continued: "The Carpio opinion finds basis in an earlier PET decision dismissing, on the same ground of abandonment, the protest of Miriam Defensor-Santiago questioning the election of Fidel V. Ramos in 1992. After Santiago took her oath as senator following her election to that office in 1995.

"By ruling that the 'Congress-retrieved' copies of the election returns (ERs) used in the proclamation of De Castro were 'authentic,' simply because of the 'presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty,' the PET ignored the stark fact that these ERs were markedly different from the six other ER duplicates held by other electoral agencies, like the Commission on Elections. …