By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan | Philippine News Agency
MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), ordered two municipal treasurers in Camarines Sur to explain the alleged irregularities which were discovered during the ongoing recount for the vice presidential race in the May 2016 elections.
In a nine-page notice of promulgation dated June 19 signed by Edgar Aricheta, Clerk of the Tribunal, the PET ordered the municipal treasurers of Tinambac and Tigaon towns as well as members of the revision committee of a barangay in Iriga City to submit their respective explanations on the said matter in 10 days from receipt of the notice.
It was the second time the PET has acted and found irregularities in the ongoing vote recount.
For Tinambac town, the Tribunal directed the municipal treasurer to explain "plastic seals found inside the ballot box already wet, election return envelope not inside ballot box and cannot be found, envelopes for minutes of voting and torn ballots appear to have been previously opened, missing voter's receipt box, and voter's receipts found scattered inside ballot box."
“Note the Incident Report dated May 25, 2018 re: Clustered Precinct No. 36, Brgy. Lupi, Tinambac, Camarines which reads ‘4 black zip ties used to seal ballot box instead of Comelec (Commission on Elections) red plastic seals; plastic seals found inside ballot box, cannot be found; election return envelope not inside ballot box, cannot be found; envelopes for MOV (minutes of voting) and torn ballots appear to have been previously opened; and Voter’s Receipt box is missing; Voter’s Receipts found scattered inside ballot box; Direct the Revision Committee to continue with the revision of paper ballots; and direct the Municipal Treasurer of Tinambac, Camarines Sur to explain the observations in the subject Incident Report within ten days from notice hereof,” read the PET ordered.
Meanwhile, the municipal treasurer of Tigaon was directed to explain the questionable signature of chair of board of election inspectors that "cannot be compared to any similar specimen in the other documents" and why several zip ties were not attached to the ballot box and already cut.
The PET also directed the revision committee of Barangay San Francisco in Iriga City to explain the questionable use of two MOV forms with substantial discrepancies and the difference in the signatures of the BEI chair in the election documents.
It also required justification from revision committee from Barangay La Purisima in the same city on the discovery of two MOVs signed by different BEI chairs.
“Note the Incident Report dated May 30, 2018 re: Clustered Precinct No. 7, Brgy. San Francisco, Iriga City, Camarines Sur which reads ‘there is no explanation in the MOVs with the regard to the usage of two MOV forms. The entries in the two MOVs have substantial discrepancies. It cannot be determined with certainty which of the two was actually used or both were used. As for the different signatures of the BEI Chairman in the official ballots, MOVs and envelopes, it cannot be ascertained if signatures were made by the BEI Chairman or signed by different persons; direct the Revision Committee to continue with the revision of paper ballots and reflect the entries of both MOVs in the Revision Report and direct the Chairperson of the Board of Election Inspectors to explain within ten days from notice hereof why there are two MOVs inside the ballot box,” the PET ruled in the same order.
Last April, the PET has required the local officials in Bato, Sagñay, Garchitorena and Ocampo towns to explain why the ballots form their precincts were wet or damaged.
It explained that since the wet and damaged ballots were unreadable, revisors had to refer to the decrypted ballot images in counting those votes but will do so after the revision of all the ballot boxes from the province.
The PET also acknowledged that some ballot boxes were re-reopened after they were sealed as it noted the incident reports relative to the re-opening of some ballot boxes, one of which was found re-sealed without returning the broken security seal.
The ongoing recount, which has already moved to ballots from Iloilo province, has revealed several irregularities like wet ballot boxes, unused or excess ballots with shaded votes for Vice President Maria Leonor 'Leni' Robredo, missing audit logs and missing voters' receipts in Camarines Sur towns.
The recount covers three pilot provinces - Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental - covering a total of 5,418 clustered precincts.
After recount of these three provinces, the PET will decide whether to not to proceed with the recount on a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities identified in the protest of former Senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr.
The PET started the recount last April 2 and said it could not determine yet when the recount would be finished.
Marcos filed the protest on June 29, 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls.
In his protest, Marcos contested the results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clusters, covering 27 provinces and cities.
Robredo won the vice presidential race in the May 2016 polls with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos' 14,155,344 votes. (PNA)