Comelec sides with Robredo: Use 25% shading threshold in recount of votes

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Updated to include statements from Bongbong Marcos' lawyer.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26) — Vice President Leni Robredo finds an ally in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to push for the 25 percent shading threshold in the recount of votes in connection with the poll protest of former Senator Bongbong Marcos.

In its comment before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), Comelec said it has set the shading threshold at about 25 percent to guarantee that the "votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading or that no accidental or unintended small marks are counted as votes."

"The legally mandated Random Manual Audit process used a diagrammatic guide which is consistent with a 25% shading marks when seen by human eyes," it added.

Comelec informed PET of the 25% shading threshold

Former PET Clerk Felipa Anama requested for the Comelec Guidelines on revision or appreciation of votes.

She also requested for a copy of the Smartmatic Guidelines which was used by Comelec in the segregation of ballots throughout the manual counting to determine which type of shading was counted or not.

The poll body then submitted the Random Manual Audit Guide on Appreciation of Markings to the PET.

It explained this confirmation on the part of Comelec shows that it had already adopted the application of a 25 percent threshold in the shading of ballots.

"In fact, the RMA Guide is what guides the Comelec's recount and revision process, in all protest cases relative to the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections filed with and pending before the Comelec...," it explained.

50% threshold abandoned

Comelec also pointed out that it had promulgated resolutions — with the deletion of the 50 percent threshold.

The omission of the 50 percent threshold shows intent to abandon it, the poll body added.

"With the deletion of the 50% threshold, the polestar in ballot appreciation ensures that no votes will be wasted due to inadequate shading by counting those votes that reflects the will of the electorate," Comelec said.

Comelec filed its own comment after the Office of the Solicitor General dropped it as its client and took a different position — urging PET to uphold its original ruling to use the 50 percent threshold.

How did the parties take it?

Sought for comment, Robredo on Thursday said Comelec's decision shows who among her and Marcos is lying.

"Ito, masaya tayo na finally, iyong Comelec binigyan ng pagkakataon ng PET na makapagpahayag. Kino-confirm lang nito iyong matagal na nating sinasabi na noong nakaraang eleksyon, ang ginamit talagang threshold ay 25 percent-nagpapakita kung sino sa amin iyong nagsisinungaling," Robredo told reporters.

[Translation: We're happy that PET finally gave the Comelec the chance to speak. This only confirms what we have said that in the previous election the 25 percent threshold was really used. This shows who between us is lying.]

"At ito, iyong mahalaga dito kasi sinabi ng Comelec na kapag hindi naging consistent doon sa 25 percent na ginamit noong eleksyon, maraming mga botante iyong madi-disenfranchise. Kaya masaya tayo na iyong Comelec na mismo iyong nagsabi kung ano iyong ginawa nila, ginamit nilang pamantayan noong nakaraang eleksyon," she added.

[Translation: What's important here is the Comelec said that if it will not be consistent with the 25 percent threshhold used during the election, many voters will be disenfranchised. We're happy that it was Comelec itself that told what they did, what they followed during the election.]

Marcos' camp, however, said they are not surprised with the Comelec position.

"The conspiracy is so clear and the co-conspirator is not expected to admit it," spokesman Atty. Vic Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the protest is meant to question Comelec's allegedly "false canvassing" under the impeached Andres Bautista. He added that Comelec's position is "patently illegal" and merely justifying Robredo's alleged cheating.

Bautista, then Comelec chairman, resigned on October 2017 amid allegations of corruption. Robredo's legal adviser shrugged off Rodriguez' accusations.

"There is no such conspiracy with the (Comelec) and Mr. Rodriguez is again pulling stories out of thin air," Barry Gutierrez said.