Comelec to look into ‘wet ballots’ in Marcos poll protest

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will look into the allegations of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., including the alleged wet ballots at the start of the recount proceedings on Monday, in connection with his election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

“The Comelec takes the matter of former Senator Marcos’ allegations seriously,” Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement Tuesday.

“We will be looking into these claims closely, taking into account, the published General Instructions governing the conduct of the 2016 National and Local Elections. More specifically, Section 29 of the General Instructions (GI), covering the Disposition of VCM, ballot boxes, election returns and other documents,” he added.

Under the GI, the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), after the counting and results have been announced, are required to place inside the ballot box the sealed envelopes containing the following: copy of printed election returns intended for the ballot box; copy of the Minutes intended for the ballot box; half of torn unused ballots; and rejected ballots, if any.

Likewise, they need to close the flap of the ballot box with security seal as well as the cover of the ballot box with packaging tape by wrapping the tape around the cover and extending it to the upper part of the ballot box. The BEI shall affix their signatures on the tape, and require the watchers present to also affix their signatures; deliver the ballot box, accompanied by watchers, to the city/ municipal treasurer, except the ballot box of the polling place that will be subjected to random manual audit, as provided for in Article VIII of this Resolution.

It added that in case the ballot box delivered by the BEI is not sealed, the treasurer shall seal the ballot box, and include such fact, together with the serial number of the plastic seal used, in his/her report to the poll body.

On Monday, Marcos, who personally observed the recount at the Supreme Court-Court of Appeals (SC-CA) Building in Manila has raised several issues such as the alleged wet ballots and “missing” clustered precinct audit logs in a municipality in Camarines Sur.

He also noted the audit logs contain the record of the times the precinct opened, closed and the time the votes were cast.

On the other hand, lawyer Romulo Macalintal, lead counsel of Robredo said Marcos should have consulted his representatives who were present during the retrieval of boxes in Camarines Sur, as they would know the conditions during the retrieval operations, including the state of the ballot boxes.

Macalintal said Marcos cannot use alleged wet ballots as a ground for his protest, adding that he can just request a copy of ballot images from the Comelec so that he can see its contents.

He also said the absence of audit logs in the ballot boxes and the presence of wet ballots do not necessarily mean that there is poll fraud.

Marcos filed his protest in June 2016. The Vice President won by some 260,000 votes over her closest rival in the May 2016 elections.

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