MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) stood by the 25% ballot shading threshold it used in counting the votes in the 2016 elections.
The poll body reiterated this rule in a 13-page comment submitted to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), which is hearing the protest case filed by Ferdinand Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.
The Comelec told the PET that “for purposes of the 9 May 2016 NLE, Comelec, in order to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading or that no accidental or unintended small marks are counted as votes in order to reflect the true intent of the voter, had set the ballot shading threshold at 25%.”
Marcos had pushed the PET to adopt the 50% minimum shade rule, saying it was what the Comelec used in past elections.
The Robredo camp, for its part, cited the resolution passed by the Comelec for the 2016 exercise, setting the threshold at 25%.
The Comelec said the 50% shading threshold that the PET insists on using in the vice presidential protest case had long been abandoned.
It also insisted that it has the "constitutional power and authority" to administer elections and determine election rules even as it recognized the power of the PET to resolve the election protest.
“Moreover, RA 9369 granted the Comelec the power to choose an appropriate technology in elections, which would necessarily include the issue of deciding how votes can be read and appreciated by the said technology,” the poll body added.
The Comelec cautioned the tribunal that using a "different standard would be erroneous and may result to unnecessary questions on the legitimacy of the elected officials from the President down to the last Sangguniang Bayan member."
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Robredo, Marcos camps react
Following the Comelec's comment, Robredo's lawyer Romulo Macalintal said, "It is not only historical in the highly specialized field of election law, but more importantly it was a vindication of our voters’ constitutional right of suffrage which was placed in danger by some procedural technicalities raised by Marcos in the course of the revision and recount of the ballots at the PET.”
“But it is regrettable, if not totally deplorable, that such technical issue which almost caused the disenfranchisement of millions of voters, had caused undue and inconsiderable delay in the on-going revision and recount of the ballots to the damage and prejudice of our electoral system," Macalintal added.
Also on Thursday, the Marcos camp said it didn’t expect the Comelec to admit the “conspiracy” it was involved in with the Robredo camp.
Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, spokesman of the former senator, said in a statement: "The purpose of the election protest is primarily to question how the Comelec…has misconducted the election, undertaken a false canvassing, and manipulated the transmission of results in favor of Mrs. Robredo."
He said Comelec’s position on the 25% shading threshold was made 4 months after the May 2016 elections, and was therefore "not only patently illegal but at best meant to justify the cheating done to favor Mrs. Robredo.”
Robredo’s spokesman found the accusation of a conspiracy with Comelec “laughable” and “desperate.”
Lawyer Barry Gutierrez said the supposedly belated resolution that Rodriguez was referring to was meant to merely affirm how the vote-counting machines read the votes on election day.
As early as February 2016, however, news reports would bear out Robredo that the "Comelec decided to adopt a 25% threshold for the vote counting machines to lessen disenfranchisement and give fuller effect to the intention of each voter,” he said. – Rappler.com