MANILA - The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo has accused the side of losing vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. of “skillfully,” if not “deceitfully,” circumventing the rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) by moving to have a technical examination of clustered precincts outside the 3 designated pilot provinces.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, lead counsel of Robredo, said in a press conference on Thursday that the motion filed by Marcos in December last year goes against the PET’s rules prohibiting the introduction of additional clustered precincts from outside Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, the 3 provinces which Marcos himself had previously claimed as best showing fraud or irregularities in the 2016 polls.
In his motion filed in December, Marcos cited the findings of the Commission on Elections Voters Identification Division (COMELEC-VID) which conducted a technical examination in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao in connection with the electoral protest filed by losing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao gubernatorial (ARMM) candidate Abdusakur Tan against ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
The COMELEC-VID concluded that the “2016 National, Local and ARMM Elections has (sic) been marked with different forms of election fraud such as massive substituted voting.”
As a result, Marcos asked the PET to subpoena the relevant documents and investigate the chairpersons and members of the Board of Election Inspectors in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao, and to order the COMELEC-VID to conduct a technical examination in these areas.
A technical examination involves the comparison of signatures and thumbprints of voters in the Voter’s Registration Record (VRR) as against the Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL).
Macalintal called the findings of the COMELEC-VID “misleading” and “frivolous.”
“How could the VID make such a conclusion when it is very clear that its technical examination involved only the documents pertaining to 200 clustered precincts of Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao and not the entire national and local elections,” he asked, noting that there are 2,834 clustered precincts in the ARMM.
He added, the COMELEC has yet to rule on Tan’s electoral protest.
In the counter-manifestation filed by the Robredo camp, Macalintal said that Marcos’ plea runs counter to the PET’s directive in an August 29, 2017 ruling which confined the initial determination of grounds for protests to the revision and reception of evidence in the 3 provinces best exemplifying frauds or irregularities, following Rule 65 of the PET.
Under the rule, a protest may be dismissed if after examination, the protestant will most likely fail to make a case in these pilot provinces, without examining the other provinces.
Marcos, in his electoral protest, is asking for the revision and recount in 27 provinces in total and a technical examination in 3 provinces.
According to the Robredo camp, the 27 provinces include Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao. Marcos’ plea, in effect, will expand the pilot provinces to 6 instead of 3, they argued.
Macalintal also noted that Marcos had already filed a similar motion for technical examination of clustered precincts in the 3 provinces in 2017 but the PET deferred acting on it until after the results of the initial determination of the grounds for the electoral protest.
NO SUBSTANTIAL RECOVERY
The Robredo camp claimed Marcos is “desperately trying to save a dying electoral protest” in filing his motion.
They noted that Robredo benefited from the September 2018 ruling of the PET setting aside the 50-percent threshold in determining the validity of shaded ovals. PET adopted COMELEC’s 25-percent threshold.
Using the 50% threshold, Robredo lost more than 16,500 votes in Iloilo and Camarines Sur while Marcos only lost about 1,500 votes.
This is not the case after applying the 25-percent threshold.
“We are happy with the results because we could not see any recovery. Nagta-tally ang physical results with the count generated by vote-counting machines,” Macalintal told reporters.
“As the numbers do not lie, it is clear why protestant Marcos is now once more seeking the technical examination of the signatures in the Provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Basilan. Clearly, protestant Marcos is well aware that at the termination of the revision, recount and reappreciation of ballots, he will miserably fail to prove any substantial recovery,” the counter-manifestation said.
Macalintal said the PET’s initial recount and revision as well as the presentation of evidence will most likely end in June 2019 but the entire electoral protest might take 7 more years, at the earliest.
Should the next national elections take place without the electoral protest having been resolved, it will be considered moot and academic, he added.