Former Comelec commissioner: Apparent disconnect between PET, Comelec ballot rules

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — Former Commission on Election Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said Thursday there may have been a disconnect between rules on ballots and the handling of audit logs in the 2016 national elections.

Larrazabal said Comelec rules give instructions to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), while the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) rules are for head revisors.

"It looks like there is a disconnect. The part of the BEI, they should follow the rules of Comelec, that's the general instructions. At the time they submitted the audit logs to the Comelec election officer, there's no protest case yet filed regarding this one," Larrazabal told CNN Philippines' News Night.

Larrazabal was referring to the claim by the camp of former senator Bongbong Marcos that many ballots from Bato, Camarines Sur have missing audit logs.

Audit logs contain information about voting proceedings in a precinct, including time and number of votes.

"However, if the requirement of the PET was to make sure that the audit logs should have been inside the ballot boxes, then there should have been an order from the Comelec to the PET," Larrazabal said.

Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez said amended PET rules state audit logs should be inside ballot boxes.

Comelec Resolution 10057, however, requires BEI to deliver the audit logs, along with other documents, to election officers.

"Nung nag-file ho ng election protest si Senator Marcos, ang nag-acquire na po ng jurisdiction ay ang PET, therefore naputol na po lahat ng connection ng Comelec resolution. Ang tanong ngayon, anong batas or procedure ang mag-aapply," Rodriguez said.

Vice President Leni Robredo's lawyer Romulo Macalintal, however, said during the election, "the prevailing rules are the rules of the Comelec."

Larrazabal said Comelec should have relayed an order to the PET to reconcile differences in rules.

"The right thing that should've been done was the Comelec should have informed the election officers by issuing an order telling them to put back or to secure the audit logs, or if not, when these ballot boxes were retrieved, they should have also submitted the audit logs to the retrieval teams. It was not done," he said.

While Rodriguez said PET issued a resolution ordering Comelec to turn over all election-related documents, Larrazabal said this may not have been adequately relayed to field officers.

Aside from the audit logs, the Marcos camp had earlier raised the presence of drenched and unusable ballots from the municipality of Bato.

Macalintal had said the wet ballot were due to Typhoon Niña, which hit Camarines Sur in December 2016. He also said ballot images may be printed for the recount.

Larrazabal, however, said this should not have happened.

"Ballots are not supposed to be wet. In fact, the ballot boxes are supposed to be weather-proof. The custody of the ballot boxes is with the city or municipality treasure, and it's incumbent on them to put it in a safe and dry area," he said.

The vote recount began Monday, two years after Marcos filed his electoral protest before the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET. Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes.