The camp of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. is set to ask the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to stop the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from releasing supposedly unused vote counting machines (VCMs) to Smartmatic for being violative of the Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) issued by the Tribunal.
Jose Amor Amorado, counsel of Marcos, made the pronouncement during the COMELEC briefing at its Warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna to discuss the protocol on the release of 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic starting October 26, 2016.
"Senator Marcos is vehemently opposing the plan of COMELEC to return the 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic for the simple reason that there is no approval from the PET in the light of the PPO it earlier issued," Amorado said.
The PPO enjoins the Comelec to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all ballot boxes, their contents, VCMs and all other election-related paraphernalia – including the automated election equipment and records – in all 92,509 clustered precincts used in the May polls.
Amorado pointed out that the VCMs scheduled to be released are covered by the PPO because they were the contingency machines that were deployed during the elections.
"These contingency machines were used during the last elections as contingency VCMs. Some of them were deployed admittedly during the earlier meetings in different areas. Some of them were left here in Sta. Rosa. So because of lack of PET approval, the plan of COMELEC to return the VCMs to Smartmatic is vehemently opposed," Amorado pointed out.
He said they will file the necessary motion with the PET by the end of the week or early next week.
Beng Serdillo, counsel of former Rep. Leni Robredo, for her part said they will not oppose the release of the VCMs despite their own counter-protest pending with the PET.
Amorado said the first time they found out about the release of the VCMs was when they received a Notice dated 10 October 2016 from COMELEC Executive Director Jose Tolentino, Jr. inviting the parties in the vice presidential and senatorial election protests to a briefing to discuss the guidelines on the release of the VCMs to Smartmatic.
They also received a Letter by COMELEC Commissioner Christian Robert Lim to PET Chairman, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, informing her of their decision to grant the request of Smartmatic to release the 1,356 VCMs beginning October 26, 2016. Lim told Sereno that since the said VCMs were not deployed and/or used during the elections, the COMELEC considered them not covered by the PPO.
“It bears to emphasize that since the units were not actually deployed and/or used during the said elections, the Commission considers the same as not within the scope of the Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) issued by the Honorable Tribunal. Accordingly, the Commission intends to begin releasing the said VCMs on 26 October 2016,” Lim stated in his letter to Sereno.
Tolentino during the briefing assured the parties that they will have time inspect the VCMs prior to release to determine if they were really unused during the last elections.
But Amorado said the determination of whether the machines were actually used or not lies with the PET and not with the COMELEC and the poll should have first asked the Tribunal before deciding to release the machines.
"This has a major impact on our case because sabi ng PET ‘yung mga machines na iyan, ‘yung election paraphernalia huwag nyo gagalawin. Here we are, the COMELEC is returning the machines to Smartmatic and our disappointment is instead of filing the necessary motions with PET, telling PET that they would like to return the machines and seeking approval of PET. COMELEC merely wrote CJ Sereno informing her that on certain date, COMELEC will return machines to Smartmatic and that there will be inspection today," he said.
He said by seeking to stop the release of the VCMs, they will put the PPO in the proper context.
"The importance of this move is to remove any doubt on whether or not these machines were actually tampered with. In so far as our technical people are concerned there is no way that COMELEC will be able to prove that these machines were not actually used. Plus from the legal standpoint, these machines were used actually as contingency machines so whether or not they were opened is beside the point," Amorado stressed.