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Ignore claims of political motives in PET recount

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For the national automated elections which were first held in May, 2010, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), then headed by Chairman Jose A. R. Melo,  issued on March 22, 2010, Resolution No. 8804,  the “Comelec Rules of Procedure on Disputes in an Automated Election System in Connection with the May 10, 2010, Elections.”

Under Rule 15, Recount of  Ballots, Section 6 (l) provided: “In looking at the shades or marks used to register votes, the recount committee shall bear in mind that the will of the voters reflected as votes in the ballots shall, as much as possible, be given effect¸ setting aside any technicalities. Furthermore, the votes thereon are presumed to have been made by the voter  and shall be considered as such unless reasons exist that will justify their rejection. However marks or shades which are less than 50% of the oval shall not be considered as valid votes. Any issue as to whether certain a mark or shade is within the threshold shall be determined by feeding the ballot on the PCOS machine, and not by human determination.”

This was the election that gave us Benigno S. Aquino III  president and Jejomar Binay vice president. A protest was filed by Mar Roxas against Binay but  it never progressed to an actual recount.

In the second automated presidential election of 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was elected president with Leni Robredo as vice president.  Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has protested Robredo’s election and it has now reached the actual recounting of votes by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

For the election of 2016, the Comelec, which was now headed by Chairman  Andres Bautista, issued a new resolution en banc, on September 6, 2016, stating that in the event of a recount in a poll protest,  a 25 percent shading of the oval was  the new guideline.

Thus the Comelec adopted the 25% shading for  the machines which  were used to count the ballots in 2016. But the PET, which is now conducting a review,  is sticking to the 2010 resolution of the Comelec under Chairman Melo, having no official information on the 2016 resolution under Chairman Bautista.

This is today at the root  of the ongoing controversy in the Marcos protest  against Robredo. The Comelec used the 2016 resolution for 25 percent shading, while the PET is sticking to the 2010 ruling for 50 percent.

The original 2010 resolution specified 50 percent shading as guideline but, at the same time, stressed that “the will of the voters shall, as much as possible, be given effect, setting aside any technicalities.” Then there is the 2016 resolution, of which the PET, it appears, had not been aware.

Some quarters have been attributing ill motives to the revision of the percentage. Such claims must be set aside as beside the point. The PET, whose members are the justices of the Supreme Court, should be able to rule on the established facts without being led astray by claims of political motives.

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