THE Supreme Court, acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal, is ready to proceed next week with the recount of votes purportedly to finally determine who between former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo actually won the vice presidential race in 2016 elections.
The PET’s supervised revision of ballots or manual recount of votes will start on April 2 for the resolution of the election protest filed by Marcos against Robredo.
This will be the first recount of votes to be conducted by the PET under the 1987 Constitution.
Earlier poll protests involving the 2004 presidential race between then Tribunal President Gloria Arroyo and the actor Ferdinand Poe Jr., the 2004 vice presidential race between former vice president Noli de Castro and Senator Loren Legarda, and the 2010 vice presidential race between former vice president Jejomar Binay and former senator Manuel Roxas II never reached the level of a recount.
The recount, to be conducted at the gymnasium of the SC-Court of Appeals building, will cover a total of 5,418 clustered precincts in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
As a prelude to the revision of votes, the PET opened the tribunal for ocular inspection to members of the media on Tuesday, but said they would not be allowed to cover the recount.
The recount would be conducted daily from Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by 50 revision teams each composed of three members—a head from the PET and one representative each from the camps of Marcos and Robredo.
Under the PET rules, revision of votes would cover verifying the physical count of ballots, recount votes of parties, recording objections and claims, and marking of the contested ballots.
The tribunal also created an ad hoc committee composed of three lawyers—Jose Lemuel Arenas, Edgar Aricheta and Ma. Carina Cunanan—that would supervise the proceedings.
Arenas said the PET is now keeping about 1,400 ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, which would first undergo recount next week.
The other ballot boxes are currently with the Commission on Elections due to storage issues, he said.
Arenas said that once the recount on the first 1,400 ballot boxes is done, the PET will receive the other ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
For her part, Cunanan said the tribunal is expecting some 213 personnel to come in per day during the recount. These include 60 employees of the tribunal, psychometricians, lawyers and representatives of both parties, and the revisors.
Members of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Police Security Protection Group and PET guards will secure the venue round-the-clock. CCTVs were also installed surrounding the recount venue and the storage area.
She added that the parties will not be allowed to bring in their own security.
The ballot recount, as order by the tribunal, would cover the three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental, which were chosen by Marcos as the best provinces where he could prove the irregularities he cited in his poll protest.
Earlier, both camps agreed to withdraw all the motions they had filed before PET to be able to proceed with the recount.
Marcos filed the protest on June 29 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in the May 2016 national polls.
In his protest, Marcos contested the results in a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities. He sought for a recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
Robredo filed her answer in August 2016 and filed a counter-protest, questioning the results in more than 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.
She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.
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.
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