By Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas | GMA News Online
The Supreme Court has ordered some local and election officials from at least three Camarines Sur towns to explain seeming irregularities in ballot boxes and poll documents flagged during the ongoing vice presidential votes recount.
The Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), wants to know why some election materials from four clustered precincts in the Bicol province's Tinambac, Iriga, and Tigaon towns were allegedly missing, wet, opened, cut, duplicated, or inconsistently signed.
A June 19 notice of resolution reveals these directives among other actions taken by the High Court, which is supervising the initial manual vote recount in the high-profile poll protest between Vice President Leni Robredo and former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.
Four of the 15 incident reports taken action by the PET in this document included an order for specified officers to explain within 10 days from receipt of notice the observations of the revision committees, the teams employed to directly recount and mark the contested ballots.
Most of the rest of the incident reports were resolved with an order to proceed with the revision — the official term for the recount tasks — of paper ballots.
The PET has previously asked some local officials to explain wet or damaged ballots from Sagnay and Bato, Camarines Sur, and noted and considered as compliance letters submitted by the municipal treasurers of these towns.
The PET also noted "without action" at least three letter-form appeals for it to apply the 25-percent threshold in determining the validity of votes in the ongoing recount.
Missing, cut, opened materials inside ballot boxes
In one clustered precinct in Barangay Lupi, Tinambac town, revisors reported black zip ties used to seal the ballot boxes, the proper plastic seals found wet inside the boxes; a missing election return envelope and voter's receipt box; seemingly previously opened envelopes for Minutes of Voting (MOV) and torn ballots; and scattered voters' receipts.
The municipal treasurer of Tinambac was ordered to explain these observations.
Another town treasurer directed to explain was that of Tigaon town, in this case over a report that three zip ties were "not attached to the ballot box and were already cut," one that was attached but cut, and that the signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) chairperson "cannot be compared to any similar specimen" in other documents from a clustered precinct in Barangay Vinagre.
Additionally, two BEI chairpersons were ordered to explain why there were two MOVs found inside one ballot box each from two clustered precincts in Barangays San Francisco and La Purisima of Iriga City.
Meanwhile, the PET approved a recommendation to "suspend revision" in a certain clustered precinct in Barangay Sto. Domigno in Iriga after an incident report said the ballots there "got wet."
Other observations "noted" by the PET, with directives to proceed with revision, were signatures from some BEI officers on envelopes inside ballot boxes that were different from the ones on the ballot themselves; as well as "wet and moldy ballots."
Camarines Sur is one of the three pilot provinces chosen by Marcos for the manual recount to attempt to prove his electoral fraud charges against Robredo, who defeated him by over 260,000 votes in the 2016 elections.
The other two are Iloilo and Negros Oriental. The results of this recount will determine whether Marcos' poll protest will proceed with a revision process on the rest of the ballots from over 30,000 contested clustered precincts. —JST, GMA News