Manual recount of votes underway

Published April 5, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


The manual recount and revision of votes for vice president in the 2016 elections began last Monday before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).  For the recount, the PET designated 50 sets of revisors, each with a table in the Supreme Court gym in Ermita, Manila,.  They will open some 1,400 ballot boxes from the three provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental, and then proceed to examine the individual ballots and record the votes for vice president.

This is the first  time  an election  protest has reached this stage, thus the great interest in the process.  After the 2004  election,  a protest was filed by presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. against Gloria Macapagal  Arroyo, but it never reached the state of an actual recount.  In   2010, vice-presidential candidate Mar Roxas  also filed a protest against Jejomar  Binay, but this too never made it to this stage.

It is only this protest by vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.  against Leni Robredo that has reached this point where ballot boxes will actually be  reopened, ballots physically examined and counted, and the results per ballot box will be compared with the results given by the Smartmatic automatic counting machines. The PET has taken all possible measures to ensure that the recount will be totally above-board, with no room for complaints from either side.

With the contents of 1,400 ballot boxes to be individually examined and tallied, it will take months for the revising teams to complete their task.  The ballot boxes have 300  to 700 ballots each; for the ones with the most ballots, the work is expected to take as long as 11  hours.

Vice  President Robredo has her  own protest questioning the results in over 30,000  precincts in provinces where Marcos won. At the end of all the recounts,   the PET will have decide if the  new totals are sufficient to overturn Robredo’s narrow margin of 263,473 votes.

While the specific goal of this process is to determine who won in the 2016 vice-presidential election, the PET  as well as the Commission  on Elections should be closely watching every step of the manual recount to see what changes and reforms  can possibly be made  in the present  election process so as to avoid such costly and contentious protests such as this one.

There has long been, for example, a proposal for manual counting along with automated transmission and consolidation of precinct results, in a bid for greater transparency.  The results of the manual recount which began last Monday  will  have particular relevance to this proposal.