Manila Standard Today - PET orders retrieval of ballot boxes in VP race

6 September 2017

Rey E. Requejo | Manila Standard Today 

THE Supreme Court, acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has ordered the retrieval of ballot boxes in three pilot provinces—Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental—for the recounting of votes as sought by losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The PET also approved the decryption and printing of ballot images in the three provinces.

But the tribunal deferred action on Marcos’ request to conduct a technical and forensic examination of all ballots from the provinces of Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur.

Marcos, a former senator, originally wanted ballot boxes to be retrieved in 22 provinces and five highly urbanized cities for the vote recount.

At the same time, PET dismissed the first question raised by Marcos in his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo that assailed the integrity of the automated election system used during the 2016 national elections.

With the ruling, the PET effectively limited the poll protest of Marcos against Robredo to disputed votes for Robredo.

The vice president’s camp cited as basis for the latest plea the various manifestations of Marcos asking the tribunal to direct the Comelec to retain custody of said Vote Counting Machines because he intends to subject them to “technical examination, forensic investigation, verification and analysis” which the PET granted when it issued a Precautionary Protection Order on June 12, 2016 directing Comelec to preserve and safeguard said equipment.”

“The same request and reason for retention of these VCMs was reiterated by Marcos’ lawyer George Garcia during the preliminary conference at the PET on July 11, 2017”, Macalintal added.

“Thus, we asked the PET to immediately resolve our earlier and pending clarification whether Marcos should be held liable for the P2 Billion cost of the retention of said VCMs by the Comelec or a resolution be issued directing Marcos to deposit the said amount,” the lawyer pointed out.

Marcos filed the protest on June 29 last year, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May also year. He sought annulment of about a million votes cast in three provinces, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results in a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities.

In his preliminary conference brief, Marcos also sought the recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also filed a counter-protest and questioned the results in over 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.

But the tribunal, in a ruling earlier this year, junked Robredo’s plea and proceeded with the case after finding of sufficiency in form and substance in the protest.

Robredo won the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes.