By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), begins today the manual recount of votes cast in three provinces for the vice presidential race in 2016, the results of which were contested by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Former Camarines Sur Representative Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo had been declared winner of that election, beating Marcos by 263,473 votes.
The recount of votes will be held at the gymnasium on the 5th Floor of the SC-Court of Appeals (CA) Building on Padre Faura, Manila.
The recount had been originally scheduled for February but was moved back to March 19, and then again to April 2.
The recount will be conducted from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday under the watch of the tribunal’s clerk of court, Edgar Aricheta.
Ma. Carina Cunanan, head of the Property Division and PET Ad Hoc Committee member, said the SC’s 101 security personnel will be augmented to secure the proceedings.
Security will be tight. Members of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard and Police Security Protection Group will secure the recount venue round-the-clock.
The PET has about 1,400 ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, one of Marcos’ chosen pilot provinces for the recount.
The other ballot boxes are with the Commission on Elections.
Once the PET has finished counting the contents of the 1,400 ballot boxes, it will receive the other ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
Jose Lemuel Arenas, another PET Ad Hoc committee member, said for each table, there will be three revisors composed of the head revisor, an employee of PET, and one revisor each from the Marcos and Robredo camps.
Psychometricians, revisors, lawyers and representatives from the two camps will make up the 213 personnel who will be reporting daily to the PET during the counting process.
Arenas said the time limit per ballot box with less than 300 votes will be 5.5 hours, 8.25 hours for boxes with 300-700 votes and 11 hours for boxes with more than 700 votes.
Marcos questioned the election results in 39,221 clustered precincts but he paid only for the recount of votes in 36,465 precincts. He claimed that the vice presidential election was marred with massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities such as preshading of ballots, pre-loaded Secure Digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning VCMs, and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes/undervotes.
The former lawmaker claimed that his team gathered “solid and incontrovertible evidence of cheating” while going through the printed ballot images from the decrypted Secure Digital (SD) cards.
This include samples of questionable ballot images from two of his pilot provinces, Camarines Sur and Negros Oriental, which showed that votes for him were not counted.
On Sunday, Marcos’ camp said it was looking forward to the start of the manual recount.
“We have endured two years of waiting due to Robredo’s habitual and intentional moves to delay the election protest and deliberate attempts to bury the truth,” Marcos said in a statement.
His lawyer, Vic Rodriguez, said Marcos’ poll protest is historic because it was the first to have reached the recount stage.
He said the conclusion of the recount will determine the winner of the vice presidential contest.
“This will dispel once and for all the uncertainty that beclouds the true choice of the electorate and prove that Mrs. Robredo cheated her way to the vice presidency,” the statement read.
“Finally, we have reached the day when manual recount would finally commence and we very much look forward to its final conclusion to determine the bona fide winner,” the Marcos camp added.
Robredo’s camp, meanwhile, said it does not fear the recount of votes.
“We are confident and we have nothing to fear about the recount. There is no doubt that Vice President Robredo won the 2016 elections,” Romulo Macalintal, one of Robredo’s legal counsels, said in a statement.
“This recount will prove Vice President Robredo’s 2016 win and will expose that Mr. Marcos’ accusations are all lies,” Macalintal added.
Robredo will hear mass at St. Scholastica’s Chapel in Malate, Manila on Monday before her legal team proceeds to the Supreme Court on Padre Faura, Manila, for the recount.