Manila Standard Today– Stop VCM release, Marcos asks tribunal

20 October 2016

By Joel E. Zurbano | Manila Standard TodayFeatured-image-Manila-Standard-Today1

LAWYERS of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will file a petition with the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to stop the Commission on Elections from releasing supposedly unused vote counting machines to its automated poll system provider Smartmatic.

They said the Comelec’s move violated the Precautionary Protective Order issued by the high court.

Jose Amorado, counsel of Marcos, made the pronouncement during the Comelec briefing at its Warehouse in Barangay Pulong, Sta. Cruz in Sta. Rosa City to discuss the protocol on the release of 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic beginning Oct 26, 2016.

“Senator Marcos is vehemently opposing the plan of Comelec to return the 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic for the simple reason that there is no approval from the PET in the light of the PPO it earlier issued,” Amorado said.

The Court order enjoins the poll body to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all ballot boxes, their contents, VCMs and all other election-related paraphernalia—including the automated election equipment and records—in all 92,509 clustered precincts used in the May polls.

Amorado pointed out the VCMs scheduled to be released were covered by the PPO because they were the contingency machines deployed during the elections.

“These contingency machines were used during the last elections as contingency VCMs. Some of them were deployed admittedly during the earlier meetings in different areas. Some of them were left here in Sta Rosa. So, because of lack of PET approval, the plan [of] Comelec to return the VCM to Smartmatic is vehemently opposed,” Amorado said.

He said they will file the necessary motion with the PET by the end of the week or early next week.

Liberal Party lawyer Beng Serdillo, for her part, said they will not oppose the release of the VCMs despite their own counter-protest pending with the PET.

“We are not against it but their petition is too late now, and they should have proof to their allegations,” she said.

Amorado said the first time they found out about the release of the VCMs was when they received a Notice dated Oct. 10, 2016 from Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino, Jr. inviting the parties in the vice presidential and senatorial election protests to a briefing to discuss the guidelines on the release of the VCMs to Smartmatic.

They also received a Letter by Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim to PET Chairman, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, informing her of their decision to grant the request of Smartmatic to release the 1,356 VCMs beginning Oct. 26, 2016.

Lim told Sereno since the said VCMs were not deployed and/or used during the elections, the Comelec considered them not covered by the PPO.

“It bears to emphasize that since the units were not actually deployed and/or used during the said elections, the Commission considers the same as not within the scope of the Precautionary Protective Order issued by the Honorable Tribunal. Accordingly, the Commission intends to begin releasing the said VCMs on Oct. 26, 2016,” Lim said in his letter to Sereno.

Tolentino assured the parties they would have time inspect the VCMs prior to release to determine if they were really unused during the last elections.

But Amorado said the determination of whether the machines were actually used or not lay with the PET and not with the Comelec and the poll should have first asked the Tribunal before deciding to release the machines.

“This has a major impact on our case...the Comelec is returning the machines to Smartmatic and our disappointment is...Comelec merely wrote CJ Sereno informing her that on a certain date, Comelec will return machines to Smartmatic and that there will be inspection today,” he said.

He said by seeking to stop the release of the VCMs, they will put the PPO in the proper context.

“The importance of this move is to remove any doubt on whether or not these machines were actually tampered with. In so far as our technical people are concerned there is no way that Comelec will be able to prove that these machines were not actually used,” Amorado stressed.

Marcos Jr. filed an election protest with the Supreme Court in connection with the vice presidential race in the May 9 polls, which he said was marred by massive cheating.

The protest came a month after the National Board of Canvassers proclaimed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo as the duly elected President and Vice President, respectively.

Robredo, who ran under the ruling Liberal Party, the political party of then President Benigno Aquino III, was declared winner of the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes, up by only 263,473 against the votes received by Marcos.

But the only son and namesake of President Ferdinand Marcos declared the cheating carried out in the May 9 elections was massive and unprecedented because it had become institutionalized.

The young Marcos said he would present the “true results” of the elections so that he could assume the position of Vice President.