By Rey G. Panaligan
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) is set to start this morning its 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 manual recount and revision are ballots in 1,400 boxes which have been retrieved by the PET, composed of all Supreme Court (SC) justices, from the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental.
Three members of an ad hoc committee have been designated by the PET to oversee 50 sets of revisors which will do the manual recount and revision at the 5th floor of the SC-Court of Appeals building on Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila
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 adhoc committee are lawyers Jose Lemuel S. Arenas, Edgar O. Aricheta, and Ma. Carina M. Cunanan.
Today’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.
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.
Mass for Leni
Meanwhile, Robredo and her supporters will gather in a multi-sectoral Mass this morning at 6:15, before the PET conducts its ballot recount.
The venue will be at St. Scholastica’s Chapel on Leon Guinto in Malate, Manila, according to a media advisory from the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
It was the non-governmental organization Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, which was established by Vice President’s late husband and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, organized the Mass.
Kaya Natin had actively campaigned for its founder’s widow in the May 2016 elections.
Robredo will hear the mass, along with her lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Bernadette Sardillo. Senators, who belong to the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party, are likely to attend.
“Her legal team will then proceed to the Supreme Court for the start of the recount,” OVP said.
The camp of Robredo has been looking forward to the start of the recount because they said this will vindicate the Vice President from the “baseless accusation” of Marcos that she and the LP had cheated in the 2016 polls.
Ahead of the recount, Robredo said she felt relieved the PET will now begin the revision proceedings.
“Relief ito para sa amin. Matagal na naming hinihintay na magsimula na iyong recount, Kasi ang pakiramdam nga namin, nagkakaroon lang ng pagkakataon na gamitin iyong isyung ito para i-muddle kung ano iyong katotohanan (This is a relief for us. We have waited for the long time for the recount to start because we feel there will be an opportunity for the issue being used to muddle the truth),” she said.
Macalintal is confident that the recount will validate Robredo’s victory in the vice-presidential race. (With a report from Raymund F. Antonio)