Marcos asks PET to junk Robredo plea on poll recount

MANILA Former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Monday asked the Supreme Court (SC) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to junk the motion for reconsideration filed by Vice President Leni Robredo seeking to uphold the 25 percent shading threshold in determining the validity of votes in the vice presidential race during the 2016 national elections.

Marcos, who went personally to the SC to file his 13-page comment/opposition, asked the tribunal to affirm its April 10 resolution denying Robredo's motion and to junk her appeal praying for the recognition of votes shaded by at least 25 percent in the manual recount of vice presidential votes.

Apart from the dismissal of Robredo's appeal, Marcos also asked for the confirmation of the 50-percent threshold and for the discontinuation and nullification of the instructions on segregation of ballots with threshold issues for "lack of basis and for unduly delaying the recount and revision proceedings."

In his comment, Marcos said there was "no categorical declaration" in Comelec resolution No. 16-0600 that the 25-percent shading threshold was adopted by the poll body en banc "during the judicial recount and revision of ballots in election protest."

This is misleading. There is no categorical declaration in Comelec Resolution No. 16-0600 that the 25 percent shading threshold was adopted by the Comelec En Banc in determining the valid votes during the judicial recount and revision of ballots in an election protest, Marcos' stated.

Citing Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino Jr., he said the Project Management Office and the Electoral Contests Adjudication Department of the commission have not provided guidelines on manual counting.

Marcos also pointed out that one of Robredo's submitted evidence, the Random Manual Audit Guideline, states human eyes are less perceptive than the vote counting machines.

Based on the foregoing, protestee Robredo is obviously deceiving this honorable tribunal (PET) by claiming in her motions that there was a Comelec Resolution mandating the applicability of the 25 percent shading threshold in the appreciation and segregation of votes during the judicial recount and revision of ballots in an election protest.

Guidelines used by the Random Manual Audit Committee, he said, were intended "exclusively" for used by random manual audit teams in random manual audit activities.

The memorandum by Comelec commissioner Luie Guia to then SC clerk of court Felipa Anama was issued in response to the latter's request with a copy of Smartmatic guidelines "used in the Random Manual Audit" and had "no mention" if the said guidelines were adopted by the Comelec for recounts in poll protests, Marcos added.

He further argued that using a 25-percent threshold in a manual recount was "absurd," as the Random Manual Audit Report itself "admitted" its "impossibility" when human eyes, not machines, are determining the validity of votes.

"Based on the foregoing, protestee Robredo is obviously deceiving this Honorable Tribunal by claiming in her Motions that there was a Comelec Resolution mandating the applicability of the 25-percent shading threshold in the appreciation and segregation of votes during the judicial recount and revision of ballots in an election protest," read the comment.

He also said it was "wrong, premature and speculative" for Robredo to claim that the 50-percent threshold would influence the results of the manual recount in his three pilot provinces.

The former Senator also accused Robredo of unreasonably delaying the assertion of a right, since she only asked for the application of the 25-percent standard after the manual recount started.

Robredo camp not backing down

Meanwhile, Robredo's lead counsel Romulo Macalintal has expressed disbelief on Marcos' persistence in requesting the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to uphold the 50 percent threshold shading in the current ballot recount.

Macalintal, in a statement, said that "this move would result to disenfranchisement of millions of voters including those who voted for him in the 2016 vice presidential race."

He explained that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) did not set a 50 percent threshold for the 2016 national and local elections.

He reiterated that Comelec has set a 25-percent shading threshold shading on September 6, 2016 as stated in Comelec En Banc resolution adopting Commissioner Luie Guia's recommendation.

"The position of Mr. Marcos is a clear indication that he intends to take the protest towards his grand design, and at all cost, even to the extent of changing the rules of the game and putting to naught the voice of the innocent voters whose constitutional right of suffrage would be affected," he said.

Last April 19, Robredo filed motion for reconsideration asked the PET to set aside its April 10 resolution denying her plea for the 25-percent threshold to be applied.

The threshold adopted by the Comelec is designed to scan every oval on the ballot and count as a valid vote those that contain appropriate marks based on pre-determined sharing threshold. Although the voters are told through the voter information to fully shade the ballots, the shading threshold was set at 25 percent of the oval space. Comelec said the purpose is to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading.

In its five-page resolution dated April 10, the PET denied Robredo's plea to direct the head revisors to apply the correct threshold percentage as set by the Comelec in the revision, recount and reappreciation of the ballots, in order to expedite the proceedings for lack of merit.

Protestee's (Robredo) claim that the Comelec, as purportedly confirmed by the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report, applies the 25 percent threshold percentage in determining a valid vote is inaccurate, the PET said.

The PET started the recount last April 2 and said it could not determine yet when the recount would be finished.

Robredo won the vice presidential race in the May 2016 polls with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos' 14,155,344 votes. (With reports from Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency