The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), modified its rules on the threshold percentage by setting aside the use of the 50% threshold in the revision proceedings and adopted the position of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that “a range of 20% to 25% shading threshold was adopted for the 2016 elections.”
In a 21-page resolution issued by the PET on September 18, 2018, but released only to the parties yesterday, in connection with the election protest filed by former Senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo, the PET explained that it initially used the 50% threshold as provided under its 2010 Rules of Procedure since “the Tribunal was never informed of any official act of Comelec setting the shading threshold at 25% of the oval space” for purposes of the 2016 national and local elections.
However, on the basis of the comment of the Comelec on Robredo’s motion to adopt the 25% shading threshold, the PET granted her said motion and further modified the existing rules on the on-going revision and recount of the ballots from Marcos’ pilot protested provinces.
In the same resolution, the PET noted that the Comelec asked the public to “fully shade” the oval and did not inform them that the vote counting machines were configured to read at least 25% shading threshold “to uphold the Intent Rule as the governing rule on the appreciation of ballots.”
Thus, the PET, in sustaining Comelec’s use of 25% shading threshold, reminded its Head Revisors that “in examining the shades or marks used to register the votes, the Head Revisors shall bear in mind that the will of the voters reflected as votes in the ballots shall, as much as possible, be given effect, setting aside any technicalities.”
The PET likewise denied Marcos’s opposition to use the ballot images in cases where the ballots were wet, damaged or unreadable. The Tribunal ruled that “it is inconsistent that Marcos would now oppose the use of ballot images when he himself moved for decryption of the ballot images.”
The PET also sustained Comelec’s position of the “serious technical challenges” in using vote counting machines to re-feed the questioned ballots and instead adopted the poll body’s recommendation to instead use the ballot images to resolve any issue on the shading threshold.
All the ballot images of the three pilot protested provinces of Marcos were “already decrypted, printed and are in the custody of the PET”, the resolution said.
The PET also recognized the evidentiary value of the election returns generated by the VCMs being in electronic and printed form which could also be used as basis to compare the results of the physical count of the ballots and the electronic count made by the machines.
Robredo’s lead counsel, Romulo Macalintal said “that the resolution is a very significant legal and political victory on our part. 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.”
“Furthermore, the resolution debunked Marcos’ baseless claim that the use of 25% threshold is tantamount to changing the rules in the middle of the game. The truth of the matter, as sustained by the tribunal resolution, is that the 25% threshold was the rule adopted by the Comelec even before the start of the election but was not revealed to the public in order to apply the “intent rule” doctrine to avoid disenfranchisement of the voters in case they failed to fully shade the ovals on the ballots.”
“And now that the resolution is effective immediately, we can already assure the public that the true results of the election will confirm that Vice President Robredo was the duly elected vice president in a clean and honest election and that Marcos’ protest has, as in the very start, no more visible means of legal or factual support.”