By Floro Mercene
A storm of epic proportions is brewing at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
When the initial recount in the protest filed by defeated vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo started April 2, the head revisors declared that only votes with at least 50 percent shading would be counted in favor of either candidate.
This meant at least one half the oval next to the candidate’s name on the ballot would be counted – a highly irregular and unusual declaration.
The threshold during the 2016 elections was 25 percent. Votes were counted as long as one-fourth of the oval was shaded. This much higher threshold will likely result in a discrepancy with the official election result as votes that were counted in 2016 may be excluded in the recount.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) officially informed the PET last Sept. 6, 2016, that its 2016 guidelines must be at 25 percent threshold, yet the head revisors insisted on adopting a higher threshold.
This mistake was compounded when the PET denied a motion by a VP Robredo lawyer to reconsider the decision that instead of 50 percent, it should be at 25 percent threshold.
If this mistake is not acknowledged and corrected, the credibility of the recount may be put under doubt. The erroneous 50 percent threshold will very likely result in the disenfranchisement of 2016 voters, whose 25 percent threshold were duly counted.
A “discrepancy” between the reported votes in 2016 and the results of the recount will likely occur, not due to any fraud or fault but because the appropriate 50 percent threshold was not adopted.
The way forward is for PET to use the same rules that Comelec adopted in 2016. Otherwise, it is setting the stage for a manufactured “discrepancy” that will only cloud the issue.
Marcos confused the public with his baseless allegations of cheating in SD cards, ballot images with square boxes instead of ovals, wet ballots and missing audit logs. These accusations have been debunked.
The PET has a responsibility to keep the playing field fair and level for both parties, otherwise, it could be in for one unnecessary storm that can and should be avoided.