Will of the people

Will of the people

The losing camp is reportedly considering an appeal, as is its right. But with the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, handing down a unanimous decision, a reversal is unlikely in its junking of the poll protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

Even Malacañang, where insulting the Vice President has become an unfortunate habit, is calling on all parties to bow to the PET ruling. The country is preoccupied with battling a crippling pandemic, and the campaign for the next general elections is set to officially start in about a year. Now that the PET has spoken, it’s time for the contending parties to move on. There are many pressing national issues calling for attention.

The nation should be glad that the PET decision was unanimous, and handed down with a year and a half to spare before the next general elections. It would be even better, however, if such electoral challenges can be resolved faster. Questions about the legitimacy of an elected official’s mandate must be settled at the start rather than the finish line of the term. There must be ways of tossing out frivolous challenges ASAP.

For sure the situation could be worse: Marcos’ challenge could have been resolved near the end of the term, or even long after a new administration is in place. This has happened in many other electoral protests, with the late senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. among the most prominent victims. Pimentel was confirmed to be a victim of poll padding and shaving or dagdag-bawas in the 1995 Senate race, but this was established only after the contested term was already over.

Such slow action on electoral challenges has encouraged cheating in both national and local races. An election mandate, once stolen, can be irretrievable. And for a duly elected official whose mandate faces a legal challenge, the unsettled question of legitimacy casts a shadow over the person’s service to the public.

After settling the electoral row in the 2016 race for the vice presidency, the Supreme Court can work with the other electoral tribunals in speeding up the resolution of poll protests. Elections are the ultimate manifestations of people power in a democracy. Every effort must be made in ensuring that the will of the people prevails.