By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
WET and distorted ballots were found inside a ballot box on the first day of the recount or revision of ballots in connection with the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Ballots in four ballot boxes were wet and one had a puncture, while 38 out of 40 opened ballot boxes from Bato Camarines Sur, had missing audit logs, the Marcos camp said.
Marcos claimed this was an indication the election documents had been tampered with and compromised.
“It’s just the start, and already 38 out of 40 ballot boxes opened were without audit logs. They don’t know where they are. That means someone opened the ballot boxes, got the audit logs and closed them again,” Marcos told reporters.
The audit log or logbook records the time of opening of precincts, the time of transmittal of results from vote-counting machines and the times the voting started and ended.
Marcos said the missing audit logs reinforced suspicion over the conduct of the elections given the recent revelations of Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd that transmissions of votes took place before election day based on some audit logs given to him.
The Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), had ordered the recount at the fifth floor of the Supreme-Court of Appeals Building on Padre Faura Street in Manila.
Marcos needs to overcome Robredo’s lead of 263,473 votes and has identified three pilot provinces for the recount: Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
He is contesting the results in some 39,000 precincts from 30 provinces and cities all over the country.
Marcos also pointed to “wet ballots” and wondered why they were still wet if the ballot boxes had been sealed since the May 2016 elections.
PET rules state that wet ballots may still be revised if they are still readable. Otherwise the tribunal will refer to the ballot images for the revision of votes.
“Some ballots were punctured and some are made wet and this shows that the Marcos protest has a real and clear basis of election fraud,” Marcos counsel George Erwin Garcia told the The Manila Times.
Forty revision committees have been formed to do the recount. Marcos acknowledged that it might take more than three months to finish the recount in the three pilot provinces.
The son and namesake of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos went to the Supreme Court early in the morning, along with wife Liza and sister Imee Marcos, the Ilocos Norte governor. They were mobbed by cheering supporters.
Caused by a storm?
For the camp of Robredo, the wet ballots were normal and nothing to worry about.
Robredo lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the ballot box could have been exposed to a storm in Bato, Camarines Sur.
Macalintal also said the punctured ballot box found at the start of the recount could have been damaged after being thrown around by handlers in the PET warehouse.
As for the missing audit logs, the precinct boards of election inspectors might have simply forgotten to stuff them inside the ballot boxes, he said.
“Those incidents have always been happening and it won’t affect the election results because under the automated elections, we have the ballot images as reference,” Macalintal said, referring to the copies of the ballot scanned by the vote-counting machines.
“The ballot images can be ordered printed by the PET. That is the beauty of an automated election,” he added.
Macalintal argued that audit logs and other technical defects such as cracks and holes in ballot boxes cannot be the basis of poll fraud claims.
“You cannot obtain the total vote for the candidates by going back to audit logs because the ballot is the best evidence. These technical defects are not a determining factor on the genuine accuracy of the votes,” he said.
“Besides, his people were there during the retrieval of ballot boxes. He should have asked his people first why these things happened in the first place,” he added.
Palace welcomes recount
Malacañang on Monday welcomed the start of the recount of votes in the 2016 vice-presidential race.
In a news briefing, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the recount would settle the “long-festering” poll dispute between Robredo and Marcos.
The Duterte administration will leave the recount up to the judiciary, he said.
“This is a judicial matter, this is before the presidential electoral tribunal already so we leave it to the co-equal branch to handle that,” Guevarra said.