By Rey Panaligan
After the manual recount and revision of ballots in 210 precincts in Camarines Sur the past two weeks, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo has reportedly lost about 5,000 votes as a result of the ruling of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) that only ballots which were shaded 50 percent should be counted as valid votes.
This was revealed by some revisors who requested anonymity because of the confidentiality of their work with the PET, composed of all justices of the Supreme Court (SC).
The manual recount and revision of ballots in three provinces – Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental – entered its third week yesterday at the gymnasium of the SC-Court of Appeals in Ermita, Manila.
There are 1,400 ballot boxes in 5,418 clustered precincts in the three provinces identified by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong”Marcos Jr. in his election protest against Robredo.
Results of the manual recount and revision of ballots in the three provinces would determine if the PET would proceed with the Marcos’ protest that covers 132,446 precincts in 27 provinces and cities.
Based on election results, Robredo was declared winner in the 2016 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.
The revisors said the PET ruling on the 50 per cent threshold would take its toll against Robredo as the manual recount and revision progress.
“It’s still a long way to go but with the figures coming out, we can see a pattern that could lead to substantial recovery or change in the results of the elections, which could favor the protestant (Marcos),” they said.
In a resolution issued April 12 in Baguio City, the PET 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.
The PET 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.”
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Manuel Audit Visual Guidelines and the Random Manuel Audit Report and that “Rule 43 of the 2010 PET Rules has been superseded by the 2018 Revisor’s Guide.”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 per cent 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 per cent threshold; and the Tribunal cannot treat the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report as proof of the threshold used by the Comelec. In fact, Comeelc 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 percent 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 percent 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.”