By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Officials of the ruling Liberal Party under the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino on April 3, branded as a “desperate attempt to rewrite history for the Marcos dictatorship” the manual recount of votes by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) for the vice-presidential election last May 2016.
Also last April 4, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos aired concern over the withdrawal of four head revisors in the recount “for no apparent reason.”
“I hope this will not result in another round of delays especially now that we have started to uncover clear signs of fraud. They are no ordinary revisors, having undergone rigid psychological test and meticulous screening by the PET. They must have a compelling reason for backing out and I am one with the Filipino people in asking why,” he said.
Lawyer Bernadette Sardillo, a counsel for Robredo, said the resignations were “unfortunate as this will once more cause delay in the proceedings.”
A head revisor leads a three-member committee, composed of the head revisor himself as well as one representative each from the Robredo and Marcos camps.
“It is our collective goal that the true sentiments of Filipinos would prevail in the result of the recount and that they voted Leni Robredo for vice-president,” Sen. Bam Aquino said.
He expressed hope the process of recount will be orderly and. honest. He hopes both parties and their supporters will respect the results of the recount.
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Liberal party president, said the recount should lay to rest questions about the May 2016 elections. He emphasized that Filipino voters must have trust and confidence in the electoral infrastructure at process.
Former Quezon Representative Erin Tanada said, “(The Marcoses) started with the burial of a dictator in the Heroes’ Cemetery. Now they want to get back in power to rewrite the history of Marcos’ martial law.”
The Vice-president’s supporters flocked to the Comelec main office after Mass at St. Scholastica’s College Chapel in Malate, Manila.
While admitting the fight may be difficult, Robredo said she was confident the truth would come out.
“What we went through gave us one lesson. Everything is difficult but as long as we are fighting for what is right, there will be light at the end,” she said.
Sitting as PET, the Supreme Court began on April 2 the recount of votes to comply with the protest filed by Marcos against Robredo.
The recount covered 5,418 precincts in three provinces — Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental, which were selected by Marcos.
Marcos said PET found several irregularities such as wet ballots and missing audit logs from clustered precincts in Bato town in Camarines Sur after revisors opened the ballot boxes at the start of its recount.
Marcos said 39 out of 40 ballot boxes from Bato town did not have audit logs.
“At the outset of the recount, we already discovered these missing audit logs.
They couldn’t tell where those audit logs went. This means somebody opened the ballot boxes and took the audit logs before closing them again,” said Marcos.
Marcos, who questioned Robredo’s proclamation, said audit logs are very important in the case as they recorded transactions made in specific clustered precincts.
“An audit log is a record of when the vote-counting machine (VCM) was opened, when the ballot was inserted, when the votes were transmitted to the server and when the VCM was again closed. But almost all the logs in that town are missing. The question is, why?” he said.
The former senator said the discovery only reinforced their suspicion over the conduct of the elections, especially following the recent revelations of Sen. Vicente Sotto III that there were early transmissions of votes before Election Day based on some audit logs given to him.
“We’re going to have to find a way to recover those audit logs somehow.
Since we are using computers, maybe it’s possible that those audit logs are in the database,” Marcos said.
Revisors also found four ballot boxes with wet ballots inside.
“If these ballots had been wet since the election two years ago, these should have dried up by now. But this means the ballots were dampened only when they were transferred here,” said Marcos, adding that the wet ballots, which were already illegible, were set aside.
Under PET rules, wet ballots may be revised or recounted if they are still readable. Otherwise the tribunal will refer to the ballot images for the revision of votes.
Robredo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, dismissed Marcos’ insinuation that the wet ballots and missing audit logs indicate irregularities in the 2016 vice-presidential race. He said the ballots got wet during a typhoon sometime in December.
Macalintal also said Marcos should not make a big deal out of the missing audit logs since he can request a copy of the same from the Supreme Court or the Comelec.
He said that the recount would only validate the Vice-president’s victory over Marcos and dismiss Marcos’ allegations that he was cheated.
“This is a sure win, and in two months’ time, we will know the result,” he said.
Accompanied by his wife, Liza, and sister, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, the former senator was cheered on by some 300 supporters when he briefly visited the revision hall of the PET on Padre Faura Street.
Robredo, on the other hand, did not appear at the venue on the first day of the recount. She only heard Mass with supporters earlier in the day.
Marcos said it may take more than three months to finish the recount. “The pace of the recount seems to be slow. But this has just started and we expect it to speed up once the process is streamlined,” he said.
The recount will be conducted daily from Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by 40 revision teams, each composed of three members — a head from the PET and one representative each from the camps of Marcos and Robredo.
Under the PET rules, revision of votes would verify the physical count of ballots, recount votes of parties, recording objections and claims, and marking of the contested ballots.
Earlier, both camps agreed to withdraw all the motions they had filed before PET to be able to proceed with the recount.
Marcos filed the protest on June 29, 2016, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in the May 2016 national polls.
In his protest, Marcos contested the voting results in a total of 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities. He sought a recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental covering a total of 5,418 clustered precincts.
Robredo filed her answer in August 2016 and filed a counter-protest, questioning the results in more than 30,000 polling precincts in several provinces where Marcos won. She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.
Robredo won the vice-presidential race in the May 2016 polls with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos’ 14,155,344 votes.
The Palace said it was glad that the recount of the votes in the vice-presidential race was proceeding as it could finally put to rest claims of electoral fraud.
But this would be the extent of the Palace’s interest in the matter, said Senior Deputy Executive Sec. Menardo Guevarra.
“This is before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal already. So we leave it to the co-equal branch to handle that,” Guevarra said.