By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
THE SUPREME COURT, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has granted an appeal by Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo to lower the ballot shading threshold from 50% to 25% in the manual recount of votes for the 2016 vice-presidential contest.
At the time, Commission on Elections had calibrated vote counting machines to read even ovals with 25% shading. However, the PET was not immediately informed of this new rule, in contrast to the poll body’s following a 50% shading threshold in the 2010 general elections.
In a 21-page resolution last week and conveyed to the opposing parties last Tuesday, PET cited Comelec’s 25% voting threshold in the 2016 elections.
Mrs. Robredo confirmed that PET had already made a decision last Sept. 18, but it was only yesterday afternoon that both parties were informed. Her occupancy of the vice-presidency is being challenged by her rival in 2016, former senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who is also pushing for the 50% voting threshold.
“From the foregoing, for the purposes of the 2016 national elections, the fifty (50%) shading threshold was no longer applied. It is likewise clear however that a new threshold had been applied,” a portion of the resolution stated.
Mr. Marcos had selected three pilot provinces for the manual recount of votes: Iloilo, Negros Oriental, and Ms. Robredo’s home province of Camarines Sur. The recounting in these provinces started on April 2.
Lawyer Beng Sardillo, a member of Ms. Robredo’s legal team which presided over her press conference on Wednesday, said they are expecting the vote recount to be finished by November or December.
But Ms. Robredo’s lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal said he expects another hearing following the vote recount. “The Presidential Electoral Tribunal will conduct a hearing, through the appointed hearing commissioners, where the parties will submit their evidence,” he said.
Mr. Macalintal added, “We consider the resolution as a very significant legal and political victory on our part. And this will greatly boost the morale of our supporters, who were so worried with the reported reduction of Robredo’s votes due to this highly controversial threshold issue.”
“We can already assure the public that the true results of the elections will confirm that our Vice-President Robredo was the duly elected Vice-President, in a clean and honest election, and that Marcos’ protest, from the very, very start, has no visible means of legal or factual support,” Mr. Macalintal also said.
For her part, Mrs. Robredo said, “Para sa akin, iyong value ng desisyon hindi lang sa protest na ito, kundi sa lahat ng election cases, kasi it was overemphasized in the decision na kapag electoral cases, ang pinakamahalaga talaga, iyong intent ng voters.” (For me, the value of the decision is not only on this protest [case] but on all election cases, because it was overemphasized in the decision that when it comes to electoral cases, the most important [consideration] is the intent of the voters.)
The Marcos camp was sought for comment as of this reporting.