Manila Standard - Tribunal probes wet, damaged ballots from CamSur

By Rey E. Requejo and Rio N. Araja | Manila Standard

The Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has started investigating the circumstances surrounding the wet and damaged ballots found from precincts in Camarines Sur during the ongoing revision of the votes in the vice presidential race in 2016.

The PET has been recounting the votes in the vice presidential race after former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. filed an election protest on June 29, 2016, claiming the camp of Leni Robredo, who won the race, cheated in the automated polls.

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

The PET ordered an explanation from the municipal treasurers of the first four of several towns in Camarines Sur where the questioned ballots came from.

The PET gave the order even as the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday said a Commission on Elections official from Miagao, Iloilo, reported last year that several ballot boxes and their contents were destroyed due to rainwater coming from a hole on the roof of the warehouse where they were stored.

In a statement, the Office of the Vice President said in a report by election officer III Jessie Borro Jr. to Iloilo provincial election supervisor 4 lawyer Elizabeth Doronila, on Sept. 28, 2017, they discovered the gaping hole on the roof on July 15, 2017, while undertaking the transfer of ballot boxes to secure their integrity as ordered by the PET.

The PET ordered the municipal treasurers to “explain within 10 days why the ballots were wet or damaged.”

The tribunal cited the reports it received from revisors involving wet and damaged ballots found in 11 clustered precincts in Bato, Sagñay, Garchitorena and Ocampo towns during the first 15 days of the recount from April 2 to April 17.

The PET said that since the wet and damaged ballots were unreadable, the revisors would have to refer to the decrypted ballot images in counting those votes, but would do so after the revision of all the ballot boxes from the province.

The Tribunal also acknowledged that some ballot boxes were reopened after they were sealed, citing a ballot box found resealed without returning the broken security seal.

This was the first time the PET has confirmed the presence of wet or soiled ballots found in the many ballot boxes from Camarines Sur.

The past seven weeks of the PET revision of votes has raised several questions.

Revisors have been finding wet ballot boxes, unused or excess ballots with shaded votes for Robredo, missing audit logs and missing voters’ receipts in Camarines Sur towns.

They also found ballots with what appeared to be cigarette burns on their edges and holes in the middle portion.

The same ballot box did not have accompanying election records like election returns, voter’s receipts and minutes of voting.

Revisors also found ballots that appeared to have been soaked in liquid chemical as well as jumbled election documents.

The PET recount, which started on April 2, has so far finished the recount of all the collected ballot boxes from 24 towns of Camarines Sur: Baao, Balatan, Bato, Buhi, Bula, Camaligan, Canaman, Ocampo, Gainza, Garchitorena, Lagonoy, Magarao, Pili, Presentacion, Sangay, San Fernando, Milaor, Minalabac, Lupi, Pamplona, Pasacao, Del Gallego, Libmanan and Sipocot.