The Philippine Star - Law students urge SolGen to uphold 25% threshold before PET

By Audrey Morallo | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the Commission on Elections, should uphold the 25 percent threshold used by the poll body in counting the votes during the 2016 local and national elections, a group of law students said on Friday.

In a letter addressed to the office of Solicitor General Jose Calida, the law student leaders of Ateneo De Manila University warned that using the 50 percent threshold in the electoral protest of losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo would result in the disenfranchisement of voters.

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal directed the OSG, which would represent the Comelec, to comment on the motion for reconsideration filed by Robredo’s lawyers regarding the threshold issue in the manual recount of votes from Marcos’ three chosen pilot provinces.

Robredo filed the motion after the PET allowed the use of the 50-percent threshold, which was the level applied during the 2010 national and local elections.

The law students are urging the OSG to fight for the applications of the 25-percent level, on the basis of a COMELEC en banc resolution dated Sept. 6, 2016, which confirmed the use of the threshold during the 2016 national and local elections.

“As students of the law, we are imploring your good office as counsel for the COMELEC, to prevent the disenfranchisement of votes and to present the rule as it should be applied,” the students said in a letter.

“To ensure that the people’s voices are heard through their votes, it is necessary that we use the same threshold for all positions in the 2016 elections. It is to be noted that the 25 percent threshold was also used to resolve protests filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal,” they added.

They argued that allowing the 50-percent threshold would result in the invalidation of ballots whose ovals were shaded 25 percent, which would affect both the vice president and Marcos, the son of the late dictator who committed massive corruption and human rights abuses during his term from 1965 to 1986.

Marcos is contesting 2016 election victory and arguing that vote-counting machines were tampered with to favor Robredo, who was the candidate of the previous administration. The vice president has denied this accusation.

“The changing of the standard for a higher threshold would only result [in] the disregard and invalidation of the people’s votes,” the students said.

Robert Escalante, the president of the Student Council of the Ateneo Law School, said that Calida should do his job to represent Comelec, regardless of his affiliation with Marcos.

Calida supported Marcos during the 2016 vice presidential election and has defended before the Supreme Court the decision to allow the burial of the late strongman at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

“In this case, regardless of whether or not he campaigned for a certain candidate, it’s still his constitutional mandate to represent the government and as such, it is his constitutional mandate also to represent the incorrect practices of the government and also of its people,” Escalante said.