The Philippine Star - PET orders Bongbong to comment on ballot shading

24 April 2018

By Helen Flores and Edu Punay | The Philippine Star

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), yesterday ordered former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to comment on the renewed bid of Vice President Leni Robredo for the 25-percent ballot shading threshold to be applied in the ongoing manual recount for their vice presidential face-off in 2016.

The tribunal specifically directed Marcos to submit his answer to the motion filed by Robredo seeking reconsideration of its ruling last April 10, which said only ballots at least 50-percent shaded were valid votes.

It gave the former senator 10 days from receipt of notice to comply with the order.

In her appeal filed last week, the Vice President reiterated her plea to the PET to lower the limit and instead apply the 25-percent threshold set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during canvassing of votes in the last automated polls.

She argued that the 50-percent threshold set by the PET would disenfranchise voters because votes with 25-percent shaded ovals have already been counted by the vote counting machines (VCM) and confirmed by the random manual audit committee.

Robredo insisted it was the Comelec that set the 25-percent threshold and that the poll body informed the high court about it in a letter in September 2016.

She explained that the threshold set by Comelec was designed so as not to disenfranchise votes just because of inadequate shading of ovals in the ballots.

Although the voters were told through the voter information to fully shade the ballots, the VCMs were programmed to scan every oval on the ballot and count as votes those that contain appropriate marks based on pre-determined sharing threshold.

No violation

Meanwhile, Robredo and Marcos both denied violating the gag order imposed on them by the PET in connection with the recount.

The Vice President, through her lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Maria Bernadette Sardillo, told the PET they did not disclose “any sensitive information” to the public related to the ongoing process.

“In all the media interviews since the start of the recount, counsels and representatives of protestee Robredo have never revealed any sensitive information,” Robredo’s lawyers said.

Robredo’s lawyers filed on Monday a 13-page compliance with the PET’s show cause order on the two camps’ supposed violation of the tribunal’s earlier resolutions warning of sub judice.

A sub judice rule is a prohibition on discussing a case that is pending in court.

Robredo said her counsels and representatives “have always respected and abided by the orders and processes” of the PET.

However, she said it was the camp of Marcos that continued to release “misleading statements designed to cast doubt on the integrity of the recount proceedings and condition the mind of the public on the outcome of this election process.”

She said as early as April 2 – the first day of ballot recount – Marcos and his counsel Vic Rodriguez gave media interviews claiming wet ballots and missing audit logs.

Robredo’s camp also cited media reports citing unnamed sources that seem to report “real time” proceedings.

Due to the misinformation made by protestant Marcos, she said her counsels were compeled to answer these “malicious and baseless accusations.”

Robredo said there was never any deliberate intention to violate any of the PET’s resolutions enjoining strict compliance on the sub judice rule.

She has asked for the tribunal’s “indulgence and understanding” on their actions “which might have offended the sensitivities” of the PET.