By Rey Panaligan
Revisors of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on Wednesday said at least 21,000 votes may have been lost by Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo as result of the tribunal’s ruling that only ballots which were shaded at least 50 percent should be counted as valid votes.
On condition of anonymity, the revisors said the votes were lost by Robredo during the manual recount and revision of ballots in 16 towns of Camarines Sur the past month since the work started last April 2.
Finished by the PET revisors were ballots from the towns of Baao, Balatan, Bato, Buhi, Bula, Camaligan, Canaman, Ocampo, Gainza, Garchitorena, Lagonoy, Magarao, Pili, Presentacion, Sangay, and San Fernando.
PET revisors started last Monday their work on ballots in 17 more towns and two cities in Camarines Sur, Robredo’s home province.
Based on election results, Robredo was declared winner in the 2016 vice presidential election with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than the 14,155,344 votes garnered by then Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Undergoing manual recount and revision are ballots in 1,400 boxes in 5,418 clustered precincts in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental – provinces identified by Marcos in his protest.
Results in the three provinces would determine if the PET would proceed with the Marcos’ protest that covers 132,446 precincts in 27 provinces and cities.
Earlier, Robredo had asked the PET, composed of all Supreme Court (SC) justices, to reconsider its April 10 ruling on the 50 percent threshold on shading of ballots.
She cited a 2016 Comelec letter stating that while voters were instructed to shade fully the ovals in the ballots, “the shading threshold was set at about 25 percent of the oval space.”
“In other words, when a mark covers at least 25 percent of the oval, said mark is supposed to be considered a vote by the system,” her motion stated quoting from the supposed Comelec letter.
This means that the PET knew of the 25 percent threshold, she insisted.
Robredo pointed out that allowing a 50 percent threshold would disenfranchise voters because votes that fell below 50 percent threshold have already been counted as valid by the vote counting machines and confirmed by the Random Manual Audit Committee.
She stressed that with the PET’s ruling, “the physical count is now running inconsistent with the results based on the Election Returns, Statement of Votes by Precinct, Ballot Images, and the Voter’s Verifiable Audit Paper Trial (VVPAT).”
In her motion, Robredo asked the PET to “immediately direct the Head Revisors to use the 25-percent threshold percentage used by the Commission on Elections for the 09 May 2016 National and Local Elections in lieu of the 50 percent used in the 10 May 2010 National and Local Elections.”
Acting on her motion, the PET directed both Marcos and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to comment to comment in 10 days from receipt of its April 24 resolution.
The PET resolution reads:
“In the matter of PET Case No. 0005 – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. v. Maria Leonor “LeniDaangMatuwid” G. Robredo, the Supreme Court, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, directed the protestant (Marcos) and the Commission on Elections to comment on the protestee’s (Robredo) Motion for Reconsideration dated April 19, 2018 on the requirement to observe a 50 percent threshold percentage on the recount within ten (10) days from notice.”
In seeking the use of the 25 percent threshold on the shading of a ballot, Robredo cited the Random Manuel Audit Visual Guidelines and the Random Manuel Audit Report and that “Rule 43 of the 2010 PET Rules has been superseded by the 2018 Revisor’s Guide.”
But the PET, in a ruling handed down on April 10, said Robredo’s “claim that the Comelec, as purportedly confirmed by the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report, applies the 25 percent threshold percentage in determining a valid vote is inaccurate.”
It said it “is not aware of any Comelec Resolution that states the applicability of a 25 percent threshold; and the Tribunal cannot treat the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report as proof of the threshold used by the Comelec. In fact, Comelec Resolution No. 8804, as amended by Comelec Resolution No. 9164, which is Comelec’s procedure for the recount of ballots in election protests within its jurisdiction, does not mention a 25 percent threshold.”