By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Law students from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) on Friday called on the Office of the Solicitor General to “uphold” the 25-percent threshold that was implemented in the 2016 elections in connection with the manual recount for the Vice President post.
ADMU laws students, in a two-page letter, asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to stand by the 25-percent threshold used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the 2016 elections. Earlier, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) asked the Comelec to comment on the motion for reconsideration filed by Vice President Leni Robredo regarding the threshold issue to be used in the manual recount. As the counsel for the Comelec, the OSG will write the comment on behalf of the poll body.
“As students of the law, we are imploring your good office as counsel for the Comelec, to prevent the disenfranchisement of votes and to present the rule as it should be applied,” the students said in their letter to Calida – adding that the protest filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal all use the 25-percent threshold.
The PET earlier allowed the use of the outdated 50-percent threshold in the recount, rejecting the petition filed by Robredo’s camp for the use of the 25-percent threshold. The 50-percent threshold was used in the 2010 national and local elections.
“With all due respect, it is clear that a standard was used during the 2016 elections, and to change this standard for the recount would necessary result in disenfranchisement of voters,” they added. The students also stressed that the use of 50-percent threshold “will affect not just those who voted for Robredo, but also those who voted for losing candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.”
“The changing of the standard for a higher threshold would only result in the disregard and invalidation of the people’s votes,” the group said in their statement. Among those who signed the letter were Robert Escalante (president, Ateneo Law School Student Council); Xamantha Xofia A. Santos (president, Council of Interns, Ateneo Human Rights Center); Marianne V. de la Cruz (incoming president, KAPWA); Danica C. Evangelista (editor-in-chief, Palladium); Glyssa Camille G. Soriano (president, Sals); Nicolene S. Arcaina (intern, Ateneo Human Rights Center); Eloize Angeli M. Dayanghirang (outgoing president, KAPWA); and Winona Maraiah M. Fajardo (president, Ateneo Law School Choir). The signatories of the letter are heads of the different organizations of the Ateneo Law School.
Escalante said the job of the Solicitor General is to “represent the government agency— the government and agencies of the government in any cases and issues arising from certain cases.” In this case, he noted that “regardless of whether or not he campaigned for a certain candidate, it’s still his constitutional mandate to represent the government and as such, it is his constitutional mandate also to represent the interest of the government and also of its people.”
Meanwhile, Santos underscored the importance of upholding the 25-percent threshold because “there are many votes that will not be counted if a higher threshold is used” during the recount.