By Bernadette E. Tamayo | People's Journal
THE camp of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has described as a “mockery” of the judicial process and a travesty of electoral reforms the stripping activity conducted by the Commission on Elections on unused vote counting machines (VCMs).
“It’s blatantly defying the order of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to preserve and safeguard all election materials and equipment used in the May elections,” said Jose Amor Amorado, counsel of Marcos.
Marcos had filed an election protest against the result of the vice presidential race amid the reported massive cheating in the May 9 elections. Then Rep. Leni Robredo, the proclaimed vice president, had recorded only 200,000 votes over Marcos
Some 150 supposedly unused VCMs were found to have tampered with corrupted SD (secure digital) cards during the 14-hour stripping activity conducted by the Comelec at its warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna
In proceeding with its plan to strip supposedly unused VCMs in view of their release to Smartmatic-TIM, Amorado said the Comelec disregarded the Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) issued by the PET to preserve all election materials used in the elections.
He also questioned the apparent “haste” to conduct the stripping of the VCMs by the Comelec, Smartmatic and the camp of Robredo as they carried out the activity until 12 midnight, Wednesday.
“This is a mockery of the judicial process which is tantamount to contempt of court and a travesty of electoral reforms because we are fighting for truth and clean and credible elections. There was undue haste seen as erasing possible evidence,” he said.
“We find it extremely incredible why Comelec could openly defy such a lawful order of the highest court of the land just to accommodate Smartmatic and appeared to be in a rush to turn over the VCMs to Smartmatic,” said Amorado.
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.
Marcos did not participate in the stripping activity at the Comelec Warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna maintaining that any move to transfer or deal with any election material or equipment must have the approval of the PET as it has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over his election protest.
The stripping activity started at around 10:30 a.m. which was participated in by representatives of Robredo, Sen. Leila De Lima and former Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino. Smartmatic’s Ellie Moreno was likewise present
All boxes with complete parts and empty SD cards were repacked and set for the scheduled turnover to Smartmatic. Those with broken seals or with SD cards found to have data or were corrupted were segregated for safekeeping by the poll body.
Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino had earlier said they will not be turned over to Smartmatic.
During the stripping activity, which lasted until midnight the next day, at least 150 boxes were segregated because of defects in the seals and presence of data in the SD cards. Some VCMs had missing SD cards while 1,255 VCMs were cleared and were expected to be turned over Smartmatic. The next stripping activity for the remaining VCMs will be on November 2.
Later in the afternoon, tension occurred between the camps of Robredo and Tolentino when the latter refused to take part in the activity beyond the initially scheduled 5 p.m. deadline. However, Robredo’s lawyer, Beng Sardillo insisted that work be continued until 12 midnight to enable them to finish all the 1,356 VCMs.
When Tolentino’s lawyer, Ben Mabulac, strongly opposed the motion since most of their supervisors were college students and needed to go home at the allotted time, Sardillo suggested that they all leave the warehouse and just let Comelec and Smartmatic do the stripping activity to enable them to finish all VCMs in one day. This was again strongly opposed by Mabulac saying her suggestion is highly irregular.
The issue was settled, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim called to them to proceed with the stripping until 12 midnight to “maximize the time.”
Amorado said the presence of corrupted SD cards when they are supposedly not have been deployed or used is proof that the Comelec should not have decided to release the VCMs in the first place.
“Prudence would have dictated Comelec to wait for the PET resolution on our motion but they did the exact opposite and even conducted the stripping activity in haste with so many violations and irregularities. We really find it highly irregular if not criminal,” he added.