VP Robredo to PET: Use 25% threshold percentage in vote recount

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — Vice President Leni Robredo trooped to the Supreme Court Thursday to file her motion for reconsideration asking the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to consider as valid ballots with at least 25 percent of its oval space shaded in the "revision, recount, and re-appreciation" of votes cast for the 2016 vice presidential race.

"Hinihingi po natin sa Korte na ireconsider yung kanyang naging desisyon at hinihingi lamang naman po natin bigyan tayo ng patas na laban," she said, adding that the guidelines for the vote count for all candidates during the election should also be the basis of the recount of her votes.

[Translation: We're asking the court to reconsider its decision and to give us a fair chance.]

Robredo said the fight is bigger than the poll recount between her and former Senator Bongbong Marcos. Marcos, her closest rival in the race, earlier filed an election protest and pushed for a recount of votes.

In its resolution last April 10, the PET denied Robredo's motion, saying it's not aware of any Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolution that states the applicability of a 25 percent threshold.

It added it cannot treat the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report as proof of the threshold used by the Comelec.

The tribunal claimed that it has no basis to impose a 25 percent threshold in determining whether a vote is valid.

But in her urgent motion, Robredo said as early as September 6, 2016, Comelec informed the PET — by way of a letter to then Clerk of the Tribunal Felipa Anama — of the 25 percent threshold used in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections.

"Although the voters are told through the voter information efforts of the Commission to shade the ballots fully, the shading threshold was set at about 25 percent of the oval space," Robredo added, quoting the Comelec letter addressed to the PET. She said the letter noted that "this is to help ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading or that no accidental or unintended small marks are counted as votes."

"In other words, when a mark covers at least 25 percent of the oval, said mark is supposed to be considered a vote by the system," she added.

Robredo said the fight she is waging goes beyond her rivalry with Marcos but also to fulfill her election promises and ensure voters' ballots are counted correctly.

"With due respect, the Letter dated 06 September 2016 of COMELEC on the use of the twenty five percent (25%) threshold percentage gives the Honorable Tribunal the legal basis to "impose a twenty five percent (25%) threshold percentage in determining whether a vote is valid," Robredo said.

Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez, meanwhile, said rules for the revision should not be changed as the process has already started.

"You do not change the rule in the middle of the game, midstream po tayo ng manual recount and judicial revision," Rodriguez said.

He also said Robredo's camp was citing the wrong Comelec resolution, as he said the applicable rules are the PET revisors' guide issued by the Supreme Court on February 2018, the 2010 PET rules of procedure, and the Constitutional mandate of the tribunal.

"Yung pinasa po nilang Comelec resolution is meant to cure whatever defects that the Comelec then, under the auspices of the impeached chairman Andy Bautista, and na-foresee na nilang sasabit sila kaya ginagamot nila yung pagkakamali nila," Rodriguez said.

[Translation:The Comelec resolution they submitted is meant to cure the defects of the Comelec then, when it was still under now impeached Chairman Andy Bautista, because they foresaw that they'll be in a tight spot.]

In a separate statement, Rodriguez also called on Robredo to "stop accusing the PET of systematically reducing her votes and casting aspersions meant to debase its integrity."

In its April 10 resolution, the PET also said that Robredo's claim of a systematic reduction of her votes "is without any basis and shows a misunderstanding of the revision process."

But the vice president argued the application of the 50 percent threshold gives the head revisors authority to "reject" her valid votes.

Robredo explained that in the Municipality of Balatan, Barangay Laganac, Clustered Precinct No. 16 — Robredo received 358 votes while Marcos got 17 votes.

However, she pointed out, due to the application of the 50 percent threshold, the votes for Robredo decreased by 12 votes while the votes for Marcos was maintained.

"The wrong impression brought on by the application of the fifty percent (50%) threshold percentage gives the wrong impression and greatly prejudices not only protestee Robredo but legitimate voters who are now being disenfranchised," Robredo said.