MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on Monday started the recount of votes for the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor Leni Robredo.
SC spokesman Theodore Te said the principal objective of this exercise is to ascertain the number of votes received by both parties in the May 9, 2016 national elections through a manual recount of the votes.
Te said Marcos had selected Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental which covers a total of 5,418 clustered precincts and the results of the revision of the pilot provinces shall thereafter determine whether the instant protest will proceed with the remaining 31,047 protested clustered precincts, again following Rule 65 of the 2010 PET rules.
The actual recount shall be conducted by revision committees, which are composed of three members each: one representative of the protestant, one representative of the protestee, and a head revisor, who shall represent the tribunal.
As of today (Monday), the Tribunal has constituted 40 revision committees. The target is 50 revision committees and the Tribunal is still in the process of hiring and training applicants for the remaining 10 Head Revisor positions, Te told reporters in a press conference.
Marcos cries foul over 'wet ballots'
During the first day of recount, Marcos personally observed the recount at the gymnasium at the 5th Floor of the SC-Court of Appeals (CA) Building in Padre Faura, Manila. The proceedings are closed to the media.
After observing, Marcos has raised issue that there were alleged wet ballots and "missing" clustered precinct audit logs in municipality of Bato in Camarines Sur.
He said that all ballots from four clustered precincts in the municipality of Bato in Camarines Sur have all been found wet, and their contents "illegible," and also alleged 39 out of four clustered precincts in the same town had no audit logs.
Hindi namin maintindihan papaano, imposible naman siguro na dalawang taong basa 'yan. Palagay ko, kailangan talaga pag-aralan kung paano nangyari 'yan. Ibig sabihin kasi kung may nagbasa, may nagbukas nung ballot box (We cannot understand but I think's it is impossible the ballots were wet for two years. I think we must know how did that happen. If these are wet, this means that somebody opened the ballot boxes)," Marcos said.
Marcos also said the audit logs contain the record of the times the precinct opened, closed and the time the votes were cast.
We're going to have to find a way to recover those audit logs somehow. Since we are using computer, maybe its possible that those audit logs are in the database, the former senator said.
Marcos admitted that his camp is concerned about votes that came late on the evening of May 9, 2016 and early morning of May 10, 2016
He said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is to be blamed for the missing audit logs since they have in their possession the ballot boxes.
These concerns will be manifested in their objections, which will be recorded by the head revisors in each revision committee.
Marcos said he found the ballot boxes apparently unsecured prior to their Monday reopening while the containers were sealed, one box had a hole patched by masking tape, and a crack on its side.
He further observed rather slow proceedings on the first day of the recount, but expects the process to speed up in the future.
Robredo camp: What irregularities?
Meanwhile, Robredo was represented by her lawyers on the first day of the recount.
Sought for a comment, Robredo's legal counsel Romulo Macalintal dismissed Marcos' insinuation that the wet ballots and missing audit logs indicate irregularities in the 2016 vice presidential race.
Hindi naman problema 'yon eh. Talaga namang nangyayari 'yon eh. Dahil sa 'yang mga audit logs, pwede ka namang mag-request diyan sa mga ballot images. Puwedeng mag-request siya sa Supreme Court, sa Comelec. It's not a problem. Kasi hindi naman pupuwedeng porket wala ang audit logs ay may anomaly (There is no problem with that. It really happens. You can just request for ballot images. It can be requested from the Supreme Court and Comelec. It doesn't necessarily mean that there is anomaly when there are no audit logs). The best evidence in the recount or revision are the ballots. And even the lawyer of Mr. Marcos said the best evidence are the ballots, Macalintal told reporters in a press conference in Manila.
The credibility of the ballots will remain. Kasi pag ang bilang ng (If the number of) ballots will tally with the bilang (number) ng election returns, walang problema (there is no problem). And in all election protests, from 2010 up to present automated elections, laging nagta-tally ang bilang ng recount doon sa (the recount tallies with the number of) election returns. And that's the reason kung bakit wala pang nanalong (why there is no winning) election protest in 2010 to 2016 on the basis of ballot recount, he added.
Macalintal said the ballots got wet during a typhoon sometime in December.
I think Mr. Marcos should consult his representatives when the ballots were retrieved. Maybe he failed to read their report or they hid the truth from him about the condition of the ballots, Macalintal said.
The wet ballots, according to Macalintal, are also immaterial considering that existence of ballot images.
That is the beauty of an automated election. Because for every ballot cast, there is corresponding ballot image, corresponding picture of the ballot, he pointed out.
The PET said it still cannot determine when the recount will 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.
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.
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