PET sets aside 50% ballot shading threshold for VP vote recount
The Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), partly granted Wednesday Vice President Leni Robredo’s bid to reverse its earlier ruling that allowed a 50-percent ballot shading threshold in determining the validity of votes in the ongoing recount of votes for the 2016 VP race.
“After assiduously going through the parties’ comments and arguments, the Court herein resolves to partially grant the subject motion insofar as setting aside the use of 50 percent threshold in the revision proceedings is concerned,” PET said in a 20-page resolution made public Wednesday.
Although voters were instructed to shade the ballots fully, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) scans every oval on the ballot for it to be counted as a vote based on a pre-determined shading threshold, which was set at 25 percent of the oval space.
The Comelec said this is to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading.
The Robredo camp said that adopting a different threshold during the recount of votes would disenfranchise voters.
The Marcos camp as well as Solicitor General Jose Calida, on the other hand, pointed out that disenfranchisement of voters is not possible since voters are required to shade the ballots fully.
But in its recent ruling, the PET opted to do away with the shading threshold for now and use the election returns (ERs) in determining which votes goes to which candidate.
ERs are electronic and printed forms directly produced by the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) which shows the date of the election, the province, municipality, and precinct as well as the votes for each candidate.
PET said the Comelec had proposed the use of decrypted and printed digital ballot images to determine if a particular shade was read by the VCMs as a valid vote or not. However, such proposal “is an extremely tedious process and would unduly delay the revision proceedings.”
“Such process would entail going through all the printed ballot images to find the one that matches the ballot in issue and then inspecting such printed ballot image to determine if there is a square that indicates that the shade in the ballot in question was read by the machine,” PET said.
PET also explained that in using the ERs, the head revisors should be guided by the number of votes indicated in the document.
“In this way, the ERs generated by the VCMs used in the 2016 elections and not merely adopting a specific shading threshold,” PET said, noting that the process will be more flexible and adaptive to calibrations of the voting or counting machines in the future.
After the revision process, all objections and claims by both the Marcos and Robredo camps will be resolved by PET during the appreciation stage, taking into consideration the intent of the voters.
The decision did not indicate if the threshold will no longer be used or in which stage of the electoral process it will be applied.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caquioa and concurred in by 10 other justices, including Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro.
Meanwhile, lawyer Vic Rodriguez said the 50 percent threshold is a non-issue to them.
“It was just brought up by Mrs. Robredo,” Rodriguez said in an interview over ANC.
“All evidence, all inclusions or reclusions will be elevated up to the tribunal, [which] will be sitting en banc for the appreciation of whatever evidence is presented before them before it finally decides kung ano yung bibilangin at hindi bibilangin,” he added. /ee
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