Bongbong’s parallel campaign
The manual recount of votes in the electoral protest former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. filed against Vice President Leni Robredo started on Monday.
But it is apparent that Marcos is at the same time waging a parallel campaign on media designed to create the perception — even as the votes are being recounted by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal — that he was cheated of victory in the vice presidential contest.
Perception is key, because in fact his allegations do not make sense; they are not potential evidence of electoral fraud, but rather easily dismissed assertions that — even if true — do not prove cheating.
For instance, he made a big deal about the fact that wet ballots were found in four out of 42 precincts in Bato, Camarines Sur.
Those who are not aware of the full measure of an automated election may not know that this does not matter.
In the first place, and as Robredo’s veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal pointed out, ballots get wet all the time: “In almost 80 percent of elections, we always experienced that circumstance. Nabasa ang balota (The ballots got wet). Marami ang madumi na (Many are already dirty). Depends on the areas where these are deposited.”
Secondly, and more important: If the actual ballots cannot be read, the PET can still read the ballot images, generated by the vote counting machine.
“If there are discrepancies or if the ballots are missing, the ballot images will be the basis for the counting of the ballots,” Macalintal said in Filipino.
In other words, Marcos’ cheap shot about wet ballots does not hold water.
Another example: Marcos made a big deal about the audit logs from 39 precincts, again in Bato, Camarines Sur, going missing.
What would a candidate gain from conspiring with election officials to hide audit logs, when these logs can be requested from the PET or the Commission on Elections?
More important, their absence is not proof of anything.
Macalintal again: “You read Resolution 10057 that was issued by the Comelec on Feb. 11, 2016.” Section 29 requires that only “election returns, election voting, half of the turned ballots, and rejected ballot” should be placed inside the ballot box.
Macalintal could not resist a dig at Marcos and his election lawyers: “Hindi ho sign ng pandaraya yun. Yun po ay sign na hindi kayo nagbabasa ng mga resolution ng Comelec” (That is not a sign of cheating. That is a sign that you are not reading the resolutions of the Comelec).
These allegations of Marcos are only the latest; he has questioned the impartiality of the Supreme Court, which sits as the PET.
He has repeatedly accused Robredo of delaying the manual recount (the revision, in the parlance of the PET). And he has labored to justify the PET decisions that have gone against him.
When he filed his election protest, his first cause of action was to charge that the certificates of canvass used in the election were not “authentic.”
This particular charge stumped the justices hearing the case, because if his cause of action were given due course, all the results of the 2016 elections, including the victory of President Rodrigo Duterte which nobody questions, would have to be reviewed.
He was asked, through his lawyers, if he would withdraw his first cause, to expedite the proceedings; the Marcos camp declined.
When the PET rejected his first cause of action in September last year, for being “meaningless” and “pointless,” his election lawyer averred that “we have the case exactly where we wanted it to be.” Right.
After the PET denied a crucial procedure related to his second cause of action, involving the technical examination of election documents from three provinces in Mindanao, the Marcos camp changed tack.
Marcos challenged Robredo to engage in a simultaneous withdrawal of pending motions, so as to expedite the revision of ballots.
The Robredo camp answered by signing a joint motion, while the Marcos lawyers prepared only a joint manifestation; unlike a motion which a court must act on, a manifestation is merely a statement which the court may or may not recognize.
Now that the manual recount has started, the results can be expected in about two months.
It is crucial to note that Marcos must prove there was cheating in his three pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and
Negros Oriental, for his case to continue.
In other words, if he does prove that, then the PET can proceed to consider the votes of the remaining 31,047 precincts included in the protest.
If he fails to prove it — and no revision since the 2010 elections has ever resulted in substantial discrepancy — then it’s the end of the road for him and his expensive, meandering protest.
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