PET upholds 25% ballot shading threshold in VP poll recount

MANILA The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on Wednesday ruled in favor of the 25-percent ballot shading threshold in the recount of the 2016 vice presidential race.

In a 21-page decision dated Sept. 18, the PET, through Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, partially granted the motion filed by the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo asking to set aside its earlier decision upholding the 50-percent threshold over the 25-percent threshold, which she said was used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the 2016 elections.

The matter involved conflicting views on how much partial shading of a circle beside a candidate's name in the ballot is sufficient to be counted as a vote for the said candidate in the election protest for the vice presidential race in the last elections.

"After assiduously going through the parties' comments and arguments, the Court herein resolves to partially grant the subject motion insofar as setting aside the use of 50-percent threshold in the revision proceedings is concerned," the PET said.

In the same resolution, the PET decided to abandon the use of numerical threshold in segregating votes and instead directed revisors to refer to elections returns (ERs) generated by vote-counting machines (VCMs) in the 2016 elections.

The ER is a document in electronic and printed form directly produced by the VCM showing the date of the election, the province, municipality and the precinct in which it was held, and the votes in figures for each candidate in a clustered precinct where the said VCM was utilized.

Under the new guidelines, the segregation and classification of ballots will be done by referring to the ERs generated by the machine in the elections.

In this way, the reading of the VCM is mimicked and verified/confirmed. Also in using the ERs generated by the VCMs used in the 2016 elections and not merely adopting a specific threshold, the Tribunal's revision procedure will be more flexible and adaptive to calibrations of the voting or counting machines in the future, the PET added.

The tribunal said because Comelec's clarification and submission of the necessary documents came belatedly, there was no basis earlier to amend the 2010 PET Rules that provided for the 50-percent threshold.

The tribunal was never informed of any official act of the Comelec adopting the 25-percent shading threshold prior to the subject motion; hence, it had no sufficient basis to amend its rules, the PET resolution stated.

The tribunal declares anew that it never received any 'resolution' from the Comelec prior to the commencement of the revision proceedings in the instant protest, which began last April 2, 2018, it added.

The PET said it had no prior basis to impose a new threshold in its 2018 Revisor's Guide since both Robredo and former senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr., were duly apprised before the recount began that the 50-percent threshold would be used.

Pursuant to the ruling, the revision committees were ordered to refer to the election returns (ERs) to verify the total number of votes as read and counted by the VCMs. The ERs show the votes in figures obtained by each candidate, as well as the date of the election, the province, municipality and the precinct in which it was held.

The ongoing manual vote recount covers three pilot provinces indicated in Marcos' poll protest: Iloilo, Camarines Sur, and Negros Oriental.

Marcos' spokesman lawyer Victor Rodriquez said the PET's position that the Comelec had not formally informed it of the adoption of the 25-percent threshold vindicates the Marcos counsels' position that the PET should stick with its original decision to require a 50-percent shading threshold for votes to be counted for a particular candidate.

"I think it is clear. The resolution upholds our position (on the threshold) since the PET was never informed of the 25-percent threshold rule and therefore there is no sufficient basis for the PET to adopt it instead of the 50-percent rule," Rodriguez told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Rodriguez added that they are considering the filing of a partial motion for reconsideration on the resolution relative to the resort to election returns. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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