Presidential Electoral Tribunal begins recount of vice presidential votes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 2) — The vote recount for the 2016 vice presidential election began Monday.

Vice President Leni Robredo attended Mass on Monday ahead of the ballot recount by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

"The recount starts today. Yesterday was Easter, and the biggest lesson is, 'There is always hope in the midst of darkness,'" she said, speaking at St. Scholastica's College in Manila.

She is confident despite what she calls a difficult opponent and trying times.

"Sa dulo ng lahat, parating katotohanan ang mananaig... Wala tayong dapat ikatakot dahil katotohanan ang ating ipinaglalaban. This is the time of fear, pero manalig tayo," she said.

[Translation: In the end, truth will prevail. We shall not fear because we are fighting for the truth. This is the time of fear, but we shall keep our faith.]

The Marcos camp said they are also ready for the recount.

"We are very optimistic because we have waited for two years," Marcos' legal counsel Vic Rodriguez said.

Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te on Monday said the manual poll recount will "ascertain the number of votes received by both parties."

The recount begins two years after Marcos brought his electoral protest to the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET. He lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes.

The recount will happen at a gymnasium in the Supreme Court compound in Manila. This is the first time the PET will be doing a recount. The process is off-limits to media.

Rodriguez said Monday morning, the physical condition of ballot boxes and its locks will be checked. The manual recount will begin in the afternoon.

Te said the poll recount will be held Monday to Friday. The morning session will be from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m, the afternoon session from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Te said the recount will follow a "strict time limit."

Since the implementation of the automated elections in 2010, Robredo's legal counsel Romulo Macalintal said electoral protests had been dismissed because the results of the manual ballot count tallied exactly with that of the vote-counting machines (VCMs) and the consolidated canvassing system.

"Sa kasaysayan ng ating automated election system, wala pang nananalong protesta sa halalan mula pa noong 2010," Macalintal said.

[Translation: In the history of the automated election system since 2010, there has not been a successful election protest.]

Marcos' camp, meanwhile, took a swipe at Robredo for her alleged moves to delay the poll count.

"We have endured two years of waiting due to Robredo's habitual and intentional moves to delay the election protest and deliberate attempts to bury the truth," Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said in a statement Sunday.

He also said the recount will once and for all dispel "all the uncertainty that beclouds the true choice of the electorate and prove that Mrs. Robredo cheated her way to the Vice Presidency."

In its grant of Marcos' plea, the PET decided upon Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental as the pilot provinces for the ballot recount.

Marcos identified the three provinces as "best exemplifying fraud or irregularities" in his protest brief.

Robredo also listed three provinces in her own counter-protest brief: Capiz, Sulu, and North Cotabato.

The recount in the three pilot provinces identified by Marcos will take up to six months.

Robredo said the protest of Marcos is based on general allegations and manufactured evidence designed to sway results in his favor.

Marcos had also questioned the appearance of "mysterious squares" on ballot images beside Robredo's name, saying it was a proof of fraud.

However, Robredo's camp had explained the squares are the vote-counting machines' way of recognizing a shade on the circle next to the candidate.

The PET has earlier required Marcos to pay P66 million and Robredo P15 million in two tranches to fund their protests and counter-protests. A petitioner needs to pay P500 per contested precinct.

Tedious process

The PET adhoc committee said it can set up only 40 committees on Monday. But they are hoping to open 10 more.

Each committee is composed of a head revisor — a PET employee — and one representative for each of the two candidates.

Head revisors are carefully picked as the revision committees face a huge task which would be performed within a given time frame.

They must process the results of over 5,000 clustered precincts from three pilot provinces chosen by Marcos.

In places where there are less than 300 ballots, they must finish the recount in five and a half hours. For 300 to 699 ballots, they only have a little more than eight hours. And for more than 700 ballots, they are given 11 hours.

Should there be objections or claims by either of the parties, the PET would have the last say.

The tribunal would only issue announcements should the need arise.

CNN Philippines digital producer Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.