Calida defends stand to take Bongbong’s side on ballot shading threshold
Solicitor General Jose Calida on Thursday defended his decision to take the side of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who insisted before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) that the 50 percent ballot shading threshold should be used in determining the validity of votes in the 2016 vice presidential race.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) headed by Calida was ordered by PET to submit its comment on behalf of the Commission on Election (Comelec).
Calida, however, submitted a manifestation last week, in lieu of a comment, stating that the Comelec should be given a fresh period of 10 days to submit a comment to defend its position that the 25 percent ballot shading threshold should be used instead of 50 percent.
In his recent statement, Calida pointed out that there is nothing wrong with the OSG’s decision to take a contrary stand from the Comelec, despite the fact that it is serving as the poll body’s legal counsel on the shading threshold issue.
Calida cited the Supreme Court’s decision on the Pimentel vs Comelec issued on August 31, 2001, where the high court “acknowledged that the Solicitor General may take a position adverse and contrary to that of the government” so he can present a position that is of “best interest to the government.”
The solicitor general added that it his duty to present to the PET the best position possible, even if runs against the stance of the poll body.
This is not the first time that the OSG took a contrary position from the government agency that it was supposed to represent.
Calida’s predecessor, Florin Hilbay, dropped the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) as a client in the controversial Torre de Manila case in 2015 because the agency stated that it could not defend the issue on the Rizal Monument.
He also said that the OSG has the discretion to drop clients anytime and adopt a contrary or different position when required.
Echoing the stand of Marcos, Calida said voters know that for their votes to be counted, they should fully shade the oval space. Hence, the supposed “disenfranchisement” that would result if the 50 percent ballot shading threshold is applied has no basis.
The threshold adopted by the poll body is designed to scan every oval on the ballot and count as vote those that contain appropriate marks based on pre-determined sharing threshold.
Although the voters were told, through the voter information, to shade the ballots fully, the shading threshold validates the ballot that meets the percentage requirement. This is to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading, according to the Comelec.
The PET, in a previous ruling, said that it “found no merit” to grant Robredo’s plea that the threshold percentage in determining the validity of votes during the 2016 national and local election should be 25 percent, not 50 percent.
Robredo immediately filed a motion for reconsideration and argued that allowing a 50 percent threshold would disenfranchise voters because votes that fell below the 50 percent threshold have already been counted as valid by the Vote Counting Machines in the 2016 national and local elections and then confirmed by the Random Manual Audit.
Opposing Robredo’s claim, Marcos said the appeal should be dismissed because there was “no categorical declaration” in Comelec Resolution No. 16-0600 that the 25-percent shading threshold was adopted by the poll body “during the judicial recount and revision of ballots in an election protest.”
He also said that the Comelec has not provided guidelines on manual counting and that the guidelines used by the Random Manual Audit Committee were intended “exclusively” for use by teams doing random manual audits. /ee
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