The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) commenced on Monday the manual recount and revision of ballots in three provinces identified by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in his vice presidential protest. Immediately after the opening of the ballot boxes retrieved from Bato, Camarines Sur, Marcos questioned the lack of audit logs inside the 38 ballot boxes and the wet ballots in four boxes.
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) commenced on Monday the manual recount and revision of ballots in three provinces identified by former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in his vice presidential protest.
Immediately after the opening of the ballot boxes retrieved from Bato, Camarines Sur, Marcos questioned the lack of audit logs inside the 38 ballot boxes and the wet ballots in four boxes.
Marcos protested the results in 132,446 precincts in 27 provinces and cities. He identified the provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental with 1,400 ballot boxes in 5,418 clustered precincts for the initial phase of recount and revision.
The result of the manual recount and revision of ballots in the three provinces would determine if the PET, composed of all justices of the Supreme Court (SC), would still proceed with Marcos’ election protest against Vice President Ma. Leonor Robredo.
Journalists and the public are, however, not allowed inside the Supreme Court (SC) gym where the manual recount and revision are being held. Only the PET revisors, duly accredited revisors of both parties in the protest, and tribunal personnel are allowed entry in the venue.
In an interview with journalists covering the PET, Marcos said:
“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.”
He pointed out that audit logs in 38 ballot boxes are very important as they contain the transactions made in a precinct.
“Audit log is a record of when the VCM (vote-counting machine) is 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 there in that town are missing,” he said.
Audit log is mentioned in Rule 57 of the PET. It states: “The Head Revisor shall also record the number of tom and/or unused ballots, including their serial numbers, indicate the presence or absence of the Initialization Report, Audit Log, and Voter’s Receipts and list all other items that may be found inside the ballot box.”
On the wet ballots, Marcos said:
“If these ballots had been wet since election two years ago, these should have dried up by now. But this means the ballots were dampened only when they were transferred here.”
The PET rules provide that wet ballots may still be recounted or revised if readable, it not Rule 74 would apply. It states:“The Tribunal shall request the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to decrypt and authenticate the SD card of a contested precinct in any of the following instances: a. The Tribunal finds that the ballots inside the ballot box subject of revision are spurious or are not the same ballots specifically assigned to the contested precinct; b. The ballot box does not contain the ballots; c. The ballots are wet, damaged or in such a condition that the subject ballots could not be revised.”
In the same interview, Marcos said that it may take more than three months to finish the manual recount of ballots in the three provinces.
But he said he expects the slow pace of the proceedings would speed up “once the process is streamlined.”
While Marcos, his wife, and his sister Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos showed up during the start of the proceedings at the SC, Robredo sent his lawyer Romulo Macalintal to observe.
Macalintal said that the wet ballots and missing audit logs do not indicate irregularities in the 2016 vice-presidential race.
He said the ballots got wet during a typhoon last December.
“I think Mr. Marcos should consult his representatives when the ballots were retrieved. Maybe he failed to read their report or they hid the truth from him about the condition of the ballots,” Macalintal said.
He also said the wet ballots are also immaterial considering that existence of ballot images.
“That is the beauty of an automated election. Because for every ballot cast, there is corresponding ballot image, corresponding picture of the ballot,” he pointed out.
On the missing audit logs, Macalintal said: “It’s not a problem. If the ballot boxes have no audit logs it does not mean that there is an anomaly. The best evidence in the recount or revision are the ballots. The credibility of the ballots will remain,” he said.