PET orders Robredo, Marcos camps to explain gag order violations

Published April 12, 2018, 8:11 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Rey Panaligan

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) ordered both Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to explain in 10 days why they should not be held in contempt for violating its gag order on the proceedings involving the manual recount and revision of votes, Thursday.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (left) and Vice President Leni Robredo (MANILA BULLETIN)
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (left) and Vice President Leni Robredo

In a resolution issued April 12 in Baguio City, the PET – composed of all Supreme Court (SC) justices – also denied Robredo’s motion to use the 25 per cent, instead of 50 per cent, threshold on the shading of the oval on the ballot in determining the validity of the vote reflected in the ballot.

It ruled that “the Tribunal has no basis to impose a 25 per cent threshold in determining whether a vote is valid,” adding that Robredo’s “claim of a systematic reduction of her votes is without basis and shows a misunderstanding of the revision process.”

On the gag order, the PET said that “in a Resolution dated Feb. 13, 2018, the Tribunal ordered the parties to strictly observe the sub judice rule pending the proceedings of the instant case” (Marcos protest versus Roberedo), and this was reiterated in its March 20, 2018 resolution.

But the PET said that “despite these stern directives of the Tribunal, several news reports have shown that the parties, their counsels and/or representatives, have nonetheless continued to disclose sensitive information regarding the revision process to the public, in clear violation of the aforementioned resolutions.”

“To be sure, the statements of the parties with respect to matters or concerns already referred to or pending resolution of the Tribunal, as well as statements and remarks pertaining to the integrity of the revision process are within the clear ambit of the sub judice rule,” it said.

“In this regard, to preserve the sanctity of the proceedings, both parties are hereby directed to show cause and explain why they should not be cited in contempt by the Tribunal.”

The PET resolution directed both Robredo and Marcos “to show cause and explain, within ten (10) days from receipt hereof, why they should not be cited in contempt for violating the Resolutions dated Feb. 13, 2018 and March 20, 2018.”

In seeking the use of the 25 per cent threshold on the shading of a ballot, Robredo cited the Random Manuel Audit Visual Guidelines and the Random Manuel Audit Report and that “Rule 43 of the 2010 PET Rules has been superseded by the 2018 Revisor’s Guide.”

In its resolution, the PET said: “Protestee’s (Robredo) claim that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), as purportedly confirmed by the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report, applies the 25% threshold percentage in determining a valid vote is inaccurate.”

It said it “is not aware of any COMELEC Resolution that states the applicability of a 25% threshold; and the Tribunal cannot treat the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report as proof of the threshold used by the COMELEC.”“In fact, COMELEC Resolution No. 8804, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 9164, which is COMELEC’s procedure for the recount of ballots in election protests within its jurisdiction, does not mention a 25% threshold,” it stressed.

It pointed out: “Prior to the amendment in Resolution No. 9164, Rule 15, Section 6 of Resolution No. 8804 states that any shading less than 50% shall not be considered a valid vote. The wording is in fact the same as Section 43(1) of the 20 I 0 PET Rules. COMELEC Resolution No. 9164, however, removed the 50% threshold but did not impose a new threshold.”

“In making mention of a threshold in the 2018 Revisor’s Guide, this was in reference to the 50% threshold in the 2010 PET Rules. This is because COMELEC has not provided any other threshold which the Tribunal can take cognizance of. In fact, the Random Manual Audit Guideline itself indicates the impossibility of using a 25% threshold if humans were to determine the compliance with such threshold.”

Citing the Manual Random Audit Guidelines, the PET said:

“One of the sources of variance, therefore, is the difference between humans and machines in distinguishing if a partially shaded oval is a vote or not. To determine with machine exactitude if a mark covers 25 to 30 percent of a voting oval is impossible for a human eye; and to consistently interpret such judgment over a number of instances is another impossibility. Presented with a situation wherein a mark borders between a vote and no-vote, the auditor is likely to decide in favor of the former.”

The manual recount and revision of ballots in three provinces identified by Marcos in his protest enters its ninth day today at the SC gymnasium on Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila.

The proceedings are being conducted behind closed doors as ordered by the PET. Three members of the PET ad hoc committee appointed by the SC, sitting as PET, are supervising the proceedings.

Marcos protested the results in 132,446 precincts in 27 provinces and cities. He identified the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental with 1,400 ballot boxes in 5,418 clustered precincts for the initial phase of recount and revision.

Based on election results, Robredo was declared winner in the vice presidential election 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 had been consolidated by the PET.