Comelec begins decryption of ballots in Tolentino poll protest

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday started the decryption of ballot images in connection with the 2016 election protest of senatorial bet Francis Tolentino against Senator Leila De Lima at the poll body’s main office.

In a statement, Comelec said the activity was witnessed by representatives of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).

A total of 1,781 ballots from three clustered precincts — one from Akbar and two from Al Barka, both in the province of Basilan — are expected to be generated on Monday.

The decryption is being carried out under the supervision of the poll body’s Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD), in accordance with strict guidelines promulgated by the Commission en banc in Comelec Resolution No. 10155, dated July 20, 2016.

The ERSD estimated that the whole decryption process will take approximately one month.

The decrypted ballot images, taken from SD cards duly submitted by Comelec field officers, will be printed, with representatives of both parties, the Comelec, and the SET affixing their initials on each page.

Printed and electronic (soft) copies of the ballot images will be turned over to the SET, along with the printed hash codes that form part of the election audit trail.

The poll body added that the parties will be receiving the printed hash codes.

Tolentino’s protest calls into question a total of 283,280 ballots, from 597 clustered precincts located in 13 provinces all over the country.