Robredo files reply vs. Marcos poll fraud claim over ‘wet ballots’

MANILA — The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday filed a counter-manifestation before the Supreme Court (SC) sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to answer the opposition filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., on the ongoing recount for use of ballot images in 25 clustered precincts with wet and damaged ballots in connection with his election protest case.

Earlier, the PET, in three separate resolutions, allowed the revision, recount and re-appreciation of the decrypted ballot images in 25 clustered precincts after the original paper ballots were found to be wet or damaged.

Marcos had raised these wet ballots when the revision started in April.

The former senator has filed an opposition to the use of the ballot images because he claimed the ballot images are compromised.

He opposed the use of ballot images in his two motions dated July 5, 2018 and July 16, 2018.

In a counter-manifestation with comment and opposition, Robredo’s lawyers claimed that Marcos has not presented any evidence to substantiate his claims that the decrypted ballot images from the 25 clustered precincts have been compromised.

“In fact, contrary to his claims, this is the first time since the revision, recount and re-appreciation of ballots started in 02 April 2018 that protestant Marcos has raised the authenticity and reliability of the decrypted ballot images,” said Atty. Romulo Macalintal, Robredo’s lead counsel.

Macalintal pointed out that decrypted ballot images will merely confirm the results as reflected in the Election Returns, Statement of Votes by Precinct, the Municipal/Certificate of Canvass and the Provincial Certificate of Canvass in 25 clustered precincts where Robredo overwhelmingly defeated Marcos.

Macalintal said Marcos sought the recount, revision and re-appreciation not only of the official ballots but the ballot images as well when he designated his pilot provinces in his Preliminary Conference Brief.

“Now that the decrypted ballot images will confirm the victory of protestee Robredo and his defeat, protestant Marcos is now assailing the integrity of his own evidence. This simply cannot be allowed,” said Macalintal.

To prove his point, Macalintal cited the results of voting in the municipality of Ragay, Camarines Sur where Robredo defeated Marcos as shown by four different documents.

“Now, as no less than four documents consistently confirm the votes received by the parties and the results of the elections, protestant Marcos has resorted to misleading the Honorable Tribunal,” Macalintal said.

Macalintal was also surprised with Marcos’ move to question the ballot images since the latter earlier declared they will aid the PET in the prompt disposition of his protest when he requested for the decryption of the SD cards.

Macalintal also expressed confidence that the ballot images from the 25 clustered precincts with wet and damaged ballots will confirm the overwhelming victory of Robredo.

“More importantly, this will belie the unsubstantiated allegations of electoral frauds, anomalies and irregularities of protestant Marcos,” said Macalintal, adding that Marcos is desperately grasping at straws by hurling unfounded accusations without an iota of evidence.

For his part, Atty. Emil Maranon lll, one of Robredo’s legal counsels, explained to reporters that ballot images were a result of the scanning of the election machine resulting to a soft copy of the ballot which is being opposed by Marcos.

The lawyer said that the pleading of Marcos is very clear that he could not present evidence that the ballot images are compromised aside from the squares the former senator’s camp is pointing.

Maranon reiterated that the squares being pinpointed has been explained several times by the Commission on Elections and before the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee of the Senate that the said squares are not abnormal but a security feature of the vote counting machine.

“Why is it that there are squares in the ballot images? This is a way actually of determining that the shade has reached the threshold, so if there is a square it means the threshold was reached. Now these squares are a big help during the random manual audit. So there’s nothing abnormal about the squares in the ballot images,” Maranon told reporters after the filing in SC.

Maranon said these ballot images have been utilized since 2010, 2013 elections and even last 2016 elections as a safety mechanism or security feature of the machine so in case there was tampering it can be traced if the ballot has been tampered or not.

Aside from this, Maranon said the ballot images are also being used if the ballot has been destroyed, wet, burned or has deteriorated.

The camp of Robredo said they are confused about the meaning of ‘compromised’ being raised by Marcos explaining that in the election law if something is said to be compromised it means the results in the ballot have been changed or tampered with.

The PET is currently holding a manual vote recount that covers Marcos’ protest’s three pilot provinces: Iloilo, Camarines Sur, and Negros Oriental. All three are known bailiwicks of Robredo.

On June 29, 2016, Marcos filed the protest, claiming that Robredo’s camp cheated in the automated polls in May that year.

In his protest, Marcos contested the results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clusters, covering 27 provinces and cities.

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. (