By Rey Panaligan
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) is set to start on Monday, April 2, the manual recount and revision of ballots in three provinces identified by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in his protest against Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Set for recount and revision are the contested ballots in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental which have been identified by Marcos as areas where he could best prove irregularities in the 2016 vice presidential election.
There are 5,418 clustered precincts with 1,400 ballot boxes retrieved from the three provinces. They are now under PET’s custody.
Monday’s manual recount and revision of votes in an election protest would be the first for the PET. Earlier election protest such as the 2004 presidential contest between then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. did not reach the recount stage.
Based on election results, Robredo was declared winner in the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than the 14,155,344 votes garnered by Marcos.
Robredo also filed a counter-protest against Marcos. The two cases have been consolidated by the PET which is composed of all the justices of the Supreme Court (SC).
With Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno on indefinite leave, Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio is the acting chief justice and acting head of the PET.
Members of the PET’s ad hoc committee, which will supervise the proceedings, are lawyers Jose Lemuel S. Arenas, Edgar O. Aricheta, and Ma. Carina M. Cunanan.
On Tuesday, they toured journalists and representatives of both parties in the protest at the 5th floor of the SC-Court of Appeals building on Padre Faura, Manila where the recount and revision of ballots would be held.
There would be 50 sets of revisors. A set of revisors per table would be composed of the head revisor (an employee of PET) and one each representing Marcos and Robredo.
Based on the schedule set by PET, the recount and revision will be done daily from Monday to Friday and will start at 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with two 15-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch break.
The PET has set the time limit per ballot box. For less than 300 ballots, the time allotted is 5.5 hours; 300 to 700 ballots, 8.25 hours; and more than 700 ballots, 11 hours.
It is expected that more than 200 persons would be present daily during the recount and revision of ballots. Sixty of them are employees of the PET.
Members of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Police Security Protection Group and PET guards have been tasked to provide security.
Earlier, both Marcos and Robredo were reported to have withdrawn their pending motions with the PET to pave the way for the immediate recount and revision of ballots.