PET all set for VP poll recount

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), is all set for the recount of votes on the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor Leni Robredo.

SC and PET Clerk of Court lawyer Edgar Aricheta on Tuesday showed to the media the place for the revision of votes for the Marcos-Robredo electoral protest set for April 2 at the gymnasium at the 5th Floor of the SC-Court of Appeals (CA) Building in Padre Faura, Manila.

Lawyer Jose Lemuel Arenas, a PET AdHoc committee member, said the revision is the process of verifying of the ballots, to recount the votes of the parties and to record the objections or claims of the parties, to objected to or claimed by the parties.

He said there were 5,418 clustered precincts which covers the three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, which were chosen by Marcos as the best provinces where he could prove the irregularities he cited in his poll protest.

Arenas said for each table, there will be three revisors composed of head revisor (employee of PET) protestant's revisor and protestee's revisor.

The revisors will not be allowed to bring in their personal belongings, including their mobile phones, inside the venue. The PET has provided a locker for their belongings.

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

He noted that 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.

Arenas, said that the PET is currently housing some 1,400 ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, one of Marcos' chosen pilot provinces for the recount.

Arenas said that other ballot boxes are currently with the Commission on Elections, due to storage issues.

Once the recount on the first 1,400 ballot boxes is done, the PET will receive the other ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

Lawyer Ma. Carina Cunanan, another member of the PET AdHoc Committee, said that the renovation of the SC-CA gym started on Aug. 8, and was completed a month ago was converted to a venue for recount.

The fourth floor of the building, meanwhile, was converted into a storage area.

Cunanan said that the tribunal is expecting some 213 personnel to come in per day during the recount. These include 60 employees of the tribunal, psychometricians, lawyers and representatives of both parties, and the revisors.

The revisors are part of the tribunal's committee tasked to examine the contested ballots.

Members of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Police Security Protection Group and PET guards will secure the venue round-the-clock.

CCTVs were also installed surrounding the recount venue and the storage area.

Cunanan said that the tribunal is expecting to augment 101 security personnel this coming week with more members of the PNP.

She added that the parties will not be allowed to bring in their security.

The PET said that they cannot still determine when the recount will be finished.

The recount was initially sechduled in February was later reset to March 19 but was again moved to April 2.

Earlier, both camps agreed to withdraw all the motions they had filed before the PET to be able to proceed with the recount.

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.

In his preliminary conference briefing, Marcos also sought for a recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also submitted a counter-protest, questioning the results from more than 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of the PET.

The high tribunal, in a ruling earlier this year, junked Robredo's plea and proceeded with the case after finding the protest sufficient in form and substance.

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