Marcos lauds PET order denying Robredo motion on vote recount

MANILA The camp of former Senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. lauded the decision of the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to deny Vice President Leni Robredo's motion asking that it should follow the threshold supposedly set by the Commission on Elections in considering votes as valid.

Marcos' lawyer, Vic Rodriguez, said that they are happy that the PET denied the motion of Robredo's camp, noting that it showed Robredo lawyers' lack of knowledge on the rules on revision.

We are happy with the PET ruling junking Robredo's Motion stating effectively that she and her lawyers are ignorant of the rules on revision, Rodriguez said.

Robredo's legal team asked the PET to apply the 25-percent threshold for ballot shading as it embarks on its manual recount of vice presidential votes from over 5,000 ballot boxes from three provinces as part of Marcos' challenge to her 2016 poll victory.

In its five-page resolution dated April 10 but was release to the media on Thursday, 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% threshold percentage in determining a valid vote is inaccurate, the PET said.

PET said it is not aware of any COMELEC Resolution that states the applicability of a 25 percent threshold; and the Tribunal cannot treat the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report as proof of the threshold used by the COMELEC.

In fact, COMELEC Resolution No. 8804, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 9164, which is COMELEC's procedure for the recount of ballots in election protests within its jurisdiction, does not mention a 25% threshold, it added.

Prior to the amendment in Resolution No. 9164, Rule 15, Section 6 of Resolution No. 8804 states that any shading less than 50% shall not be considered a valid vote. The wording is in fact the same as Section 43(1) of the 20 I 0 PET Rules. COMELEC Resolution No. 9164, however, removed the 50% threshold but did not impose a new threshold, the PET stated.

The Court said, it is consistent with PET's rules, adding that while the 2010 PET rules states the 50-percent threshold, the 2018 Revisor's Guide "did not impose a new threshold."

Further citing the 2018 Revisor's Guide, the PET also found Robredo's claim of a "systematic reduction" of her votes "without basis and shows a misunderstanding of the revision process.

Under the rules, it said ballots under question will be marked for examination by the PET.

"During the revision proceedings, there is yet to final reduction or even addition of votes. Such final reduction or addition of votes may only take place after the Tribunal has ruled on the objections and/or claims and after reception of evidence of the parties, if necessary," the tribunal said.

In the same resolution, the PET said Robredo's manifestation of "grave concern," filed after one revision committee allegedly "denied her claim" to four ballots found inside the unused ballots envelope, and referred it to PET commissioners for action.

The PET also asked both the camps of Robredo and Marcos to explain why they should not be cited in indirect contempt for disclosing information as regards the recount process, considering they have earlier been ordered to refrain from making comments on the poll protest pending its resolution.

Sought for a comment, Rodriguez said that they will comply and give explanation on PET's show cause order for allegedly disclosing sensitive information regarding the recount of the votes for the 2016 vice presidential race based on the protest case filed by the former.

We were given a show cause order and have 10 days to explain our side on the matter of sub judice and we will comply, Rodriguez noted.

It will be recalled that both parties are holding their separate press conferences and discussing the issues at hand.

In a resolution dated Feb. 13, the tribunal ordered the parties to strictly observe the sub judice rule pending the proceedings of the instant case. This was reiterated in another resolution dated March 20, 2018.

The PET said it could not determine yet when the recount would be finished.

The recount will be conducted Monday until Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with two 15-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch break.

The time limit per ballot box with less than 300 votes will be 5.5 hours while for 300-700 votes will be 8.25 hours and for more than 700 votes will be 11 hours.

During the revision, the head revisor will segregate and examine the contents of each ballot box and on the basis thereof, determine the number of votes received by each party.

At the same time, the party representatives will be allowed to claim and object to ballots, as they deem necessary. If the revision committee fails to comply with the time limit, they shall proceed to revise another ballot box and the parties shall be deemed to have waived their right to claim or object to the remaining ballots.

Marcos filed the protest on June 29, 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May that year.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clusters, covering 27 provinces and cities.

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.

Source: Philippine News Agency