By Virgil Lopez | GMA News Online
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has started the decryption and printing of ballot images from three pilot provinces for the recount in connection with the poll protest of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Marcos’ spokesman, Victor Rodriguez, disclosed the development on Tuesday, a day after the Comelec started to decrypt and print the ballot images and other data found in the secure digital (SD) cards in its main office in Intramuros, Manila on orders of the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
The decryption and printing of ballots cover precincts in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental.
Rodriguez said Robredo’s camp initially tried to postpone the scheduled decryption reasoning that they only brought two revisors.
Marcos paid P2.97 million to the Comelec for the decryption costs, according to his legal counsel George Garcia.
But the Comelec denied Robredo’s motion to postpone and proceeded with the decryption of the ballot images, beginning with her home province of Camarines Sur.
“What are they [Robredo camp] afraid of? If they believe she won, they should be rushing to count the ballots so that this issue could finally be laid to rest, in her favor. Instead, they have adopted a strategy of delay and obfuscation,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added the decryption and printing of ballot images of the three pilot areas will take at least seven months to finish.
Rodriguez also said the PET recently ordered its exploratory teams to start locating the ballot boxes in the clustered precincts of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental so that it could order its retrieval and transfer to Manila.
Under the Rules of PET, the three pilot provinces for the recount or revision will best attest to the votes recovered or will best exemplify the merits or legitimacy of his protest.
Explaining the basis for tagging Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental as pilot provinces for the manual recount, Rodriguez said there were major discrepancies in the votes cast in the ballots and those transmitted by the vote counting machines (VCMs) and reported in the certificates of canvass (COCs) in these provinces.
Rodriguez said it was highly improbable for Robredo to corner 80 percent of the votes in Camarines Sur when other vice presidential candidates were either from the Bicol region or had ties in the said region.
Robredo obtained 643,865 votes as against Marcos’ 40,195 votes in the May 2016 election, according to the former senator's camp.
The other Bicolano candidates namely Senator Francis Escudero, who is from Sorsogon, got 36,509 votes while Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, whose wife is from Albay, received 14,601 votes.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV got 11,334 votes while Senator Gregorio Honasan II, whose mother is from Sorsogon, garnered only 7,005 votes.
As for Iloilo, Rodriguez wondered why Robredo obtained 573,729 votes as against Marcos’ 94,411 votes when his running mate, the late former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, was from Iloilo.
Marcos received 99,208 votes in Negros Oriental as against Robredo's 248,102 votes even though the former senator reportedly got the backing of the "biggest political families" in the province.
Rodriguez added the three provinces had some of the highest undervotes recorded which raised suspicion on the results of the polls.
Undervotes are ballots not counted either because the voter did not vote for a certain position or there were unclear markings in the ballot.
Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 elections, which the former senator claimed was marred by fraud.