BBM Camp stands its ground vs COMELEC on release of VCMs to Smartmatic

26 October 2016

Resolves not to have further participation in the release of VCMs unless the same is with PET approval


The camp of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. is standing its ground against the decision of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to release Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) to Smartmatic maintaining that the same must be with the approval of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

In a letter sent to COMELEC Executive Director Jose Tolentino, Jose Amor Amorado, counsel of Marcos, reiterated their stand that any decision of the COMELEC in the disposition of election materials used in the May elections should have the approval of the PET as it has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over the election protest of the former Senator.

The COMELEC had earlier decided to grant the request of Smartmatic to recall 1,365 VCMs which it unilaterally declared to have neither been deployed and/or unused in the May elections.

Amorado told Tolentino that they have already filed their Urgent Manifestation and Motion to the PET seeking to stop the release of the VCMs for being violative of the Precautionary Protective Order issued by the Tribunal. They have also asked the PET to oversee the technical evaluation to determine whether or not the machines had been unused.

It for this reason, according to Amorado, that they have decided not to take part in the scheduled examination of the VCMs today, Wednesday, October 26, 2016.

“Hence, unless and until, the PET approves the release of the subject VCMs, protestant Marcos will not be sending any representative or any supervisor/lawyer to the 26 October 2016 meeting at Sta. Rosa City to witness your proposed release of the 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic-TIM,” Amorado said.

The parties in the vice presidential and senatorial electoral protests were scheduled to examine the VCMs today at the COMELEC Warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna to determine if they were indeed not used in the last elections as a prelude to their release.

Amorado also protested how today’s examination has turned out to be not an inspection of the VCMs but a “stripping activity” as declared by Tolentino in his letter addressed to the parties. He said they never agreed to any stripping activity.

“Please be informed that during the 19 October 2016 briefing at the COMELEC’s Training Room in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, protestant Marcos’ representatives did not agree to any ‘stripping’ activity. To clarify, what was discussed in the said briefing was only the plan of COMELEC to release the 1,356 units of contingency machines to Smartmatic-TIM,” he stressed.

Amorado was referring to the 21 October 2016 letter of Tolentino addressed to Marcos’ lawyers asking them to furnish the names of those who will attend today’s “stripping activity” at the Sta. Rosa warehouse.

This is not the first time the COMELEC has initiated a stripping activity.

Last August, Marcos’ lawyers asked the COMELEC to explain why it approved the stripping of data contained in the SD cards and CCS laptop units used during the last elections. The poll body issued the assailed Order on July 12, 2016 — on the very same day that the PET resolved to issue a protection order to preserve the integrity of all election paraphernalia used in the May elections.

According to the COMELEC, the stripping activity was needed because the SD cards and VCMs were going to be used for the November 2016 barangay elections. However, the barangay elections have been postponed to next year.

Despite this, the COMELEC intends to return the VCMs to Smartmatic — a move which, according to Marcos’ counsels, clearly contravenes both the spirit and the letter of the PPO issued by the PET.

Marcos, in his 11-page Urgent Manifestation and Motion filed last Friday, October 21, 2016, asked the PET to stop the COMELEC from releasing the supposedly “unused” VCMs to Smartmatic on the ground that doing so would be violative of the PPO it earlier issued to preserve all election materials and equipment used in the May elections.

He questioned the poll body’s act to unilaterally declare the VCMs as “unused” saying the determination of whether they were used or not lies solely with the PET which has jurisdiction over all issues relating to the election protest of the former Senator.

“Protestant respectfully submits however that COMELEC cannot release the subject VCMs as the determination of whether they were used in the 9 May 2016 elections and are thus, covered by the PPO, is solely within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Tribunal. As can be inferred from its letter dated 27 September 2016, the COMELEC made a unilateral determination that the subject VCMs are not within the scope of the PPO,” he said.