The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to immediately conduct the Automated Election System (AES) Project’s closure/stripping activities for all the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) covered by the election protest of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo.
In a resolution dated November 8, 2016 that was released just recently, the electoral tribunal mandated the election court to fast-track the closure/stripping activities that are covered by the poll protest.
In his protest, Marcos alleged that the Liberal Party headed by then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd rigged the May 2016 elections in favor of Robredo.
“Authorize the Comelec and Smartmatic to immediately conduct the 2016 Automated Elections System Project closure/stripping activities for all the VCM and CCS [Consolidation and Canvass System] kits including the immediate disposal of the VCM external batteries, with prior notice to this tribunal, the protestant and protestee and other interested persons,” the resolution read.
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal also ordered the Comelec “to allow the parties and representatives of the tribunal to observe and comment during the conduct of the closure/stripping activities.”
“Approve the conduct of preliminary discussion between the Comelec and the counsel/watchers of the parties and the tribunal on the protocol and procedures to be observed during the closure/stripping and backing-up activities, including an ocular inspection of the Comelec’s warehouse in Santa Rosa, Laguna, where said activities will be conducted,” the resolution also read.
The electoral tribunal also ordered the modification of the “Precautionary Protection Order such that election materials and paraphernalia used in the May 2016 elections which do not contain election results dated, as listed in the letter of the Comelec.”
“Authorize the Comelec’s Election Records and Statistics Department to back up the contents of the VCM SD [Secure Digital] cards of all municipalities, cities and provinces covered under the PPO,” it further ordered.
In the meantime, the electoral tribunal also ordered the Comelec to present the itemized cost that it may be required to pay should the automated election paraphernalia will still be in the possession of the Comelec on account of the Marcos protest.
“Direct the Comelec to inform the tribunal within a period of 10 days from notice the itemized cost that it may be required to pay should the automated election paraphernalia covered by Article 6.9 of the AES contract still be in the possession of the Comelec by December 1, 2016 on account of the instant election protest,” the resolution further read.
The Comelec has manifested that it will spend P2,078,304,225.76 on account of the election protest by holding the VCMs.
“Direct the Comelec to inform the tribunal, within 10 days from notice hereof, of (i) what transpired during the stripping of the 1,356 VCMs on October 26, 2016 and (ii) the status of protestee’s request for decryption,” the resolution also read.
The Presidential Electoral Tribunal early on ordered the preservation of the “automated election equipment and records such as Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) , Consolidation and Canvass System [CCS) units, Secure Digital (SD) cards (main and back-up) and the other data storage devices in all of the ninety two thousand five hundred nine (92,509) clustered precincts used in the May 2016 elections, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from the tribunal.”
Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes, prompting him to accuse her of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” such as pre-shading of ballots, pre-loading of Secure Digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning VCMs and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes/undervotes for the position of Vice President.
SC Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa is the ponente of the Marcos-Robredo election protest.
Caguioa and former president Aquino were classmates from elementary to college at the Ateneo de Manila University.
The Associate Justice was the original ponente in the case on the burial of the former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.