OSG asks electoral tribunal to affirm ruling on poll recount

MANILA The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Friday asked the Supreme Court (SC) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to affirm its ruling last April, upholding the 50 percent shading threshold in determining the validity of votes in the 2016 vice presidential race.

In the 21-page manifestation and motion, the OSG argued that there is no basis for the High Court to grant the motion of Vice President Leni Robredo, seeking to uphold the 25 percent shading threshold.

As the People's Tribune, it is the Solicitor General's duty to present to the Honorable Tribunal the position he perceives to be in the best interest of the State, notwithstanding the stance of the Comelec (Commission on Elections) on the issue of whether the Honorable Tribunal correctly ruled that it has no basis to impose a 25% threshold in determining whether a vote is valid, the OSG said.

The OSG also said it sought an extension on the tribunal's order to comment on behalf of the Comelec so it could study the issue and take the position of the PET.

In supporting the PET's position and rule on the 50% threshold, the OSG maintained said Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution mandates the PET, not the Comelec, the sole power and authority to judge presidential and vice presidential poll protests, and promulgate rules for the purpose.

The power of the PET as the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President and Vice President, to promulgate rules and regulations relative to matters within its jurisdiction, including the determination of the threshold to be used in the recount, is beyond dispute, the OSG said.

On the issue of what threshold will be used in the consideration of votes, the PET has already made such determination. In Rule 43, Paragraph (l) of the 2010 Rules of the PET, it is stated that marks or shades that are less than 50% of the oval shall not be considered as valid votes, it added.

In resolution dated April 10, the PET denied Robredo's plea to direct the head revisors to apply the correct threshold percentage as set by the Comelec in the revision, recount and reappreciation of the ballots, to expedite the proceedings for lack of merit.

PET 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."

Last April 19, Robredo filed motion for reconsideration, asking the PET to set aside its April 10 resolution denying her plea for the 25-percent threshold to be applied.

The threshold adopted by the Comelec is designed to scan every oval on the ballot and count as a valid vote those that contain appropriate marks based on pre-determined sharing threshold.

Although the voters are told through the voter information to fully shade the ballots, the shading threshold was set at 25 percent of the oval space. Comelec said the purpose is to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading.

The camp of former senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. has already opposed Robredo's motion and asked the Tribunal to dismiss her plea.

In his comment, Marcos said there was "no categorical declaration" in Comelec resolution No. 16-0600 that the 25-percent shading threshold was adopted by the poll body en banc "during the judicial recount and revision of ballots in election protest."

Marcos filed the protest on June 29, 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May that year.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clusters, covering 27 provinces and cities.

Robredo won the vice presidential race in the May 2016 polls with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos' 14,155,344 votes. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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