THE camp of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday snubbed the turnover of more than 1,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs) by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to its provider Smartmatic, claiming the action was a violation of an order to preserve all election equipment pending the resolution of fraud allegations against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
In a statement, Marcos counsel Jose Amor Amorado said he had informed Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino that they won’t take part in the examination of the VCMs.
“Hence, unless and until, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) approves the release of the subject VCMs, protestant Marcos will not be sending any representative or any supervisor/lawyer to the 26 October 2016 meeting at Santa Rosa City to witness your proposed release of the 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic-TIM,” Amorado said.
Last week, Marcos asked the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET, to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the release of VCMs to Smartmatic. As of press time, the SC has yet to issue a TRO.
The Comelec earlier decided to grant the request of Smartmatic to recall 1,365 VCMs, which it unilaterally declared to have been unused in the May elections.
Parties in the vice presidential and senatorial electoral protests were scheduled to examine the VCMs on Wednesday to determine if they were indeed not used in the May elections.
Marcos, who lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes in the May elections, had accused the former Camarines Sur representative of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” involving the pre-shading of ballots, pre-loading of secure digital storage cards for voting data, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning vote-counting machines, and an “abnormally high” number of unaccounted votes or “undervotes,” among others.
Amorado protested how the examination turned out to be not an inspection of the VCMs, but a “stripping activity” as declared by Tolentino in a letter addressed to the parties in the electoral protest case.
“Please be informed that during the 19 October 2016 briefing at the Comelec’s Training Room in Santa Rosa, Laguna, protestant Marcos’ representatives did not agree to any ‘stripping’ activity. To clarify, what was discussed in the said briefing was only the plan of Comelec to release the 1,356 units of contingency machines to Smartmatic-TIM,” Amorado stressed.
On October 21, Tolentino wrote Marcos’ lawyers, asking them to furnish the names of those who will attend the “stripping activity” at the Santa Rosa warehouse.
It was not the first time the Comelec initiated a stripping activity.
In August, Marcos’ lawyers asked the poll body to explain why it approved the stripping of data contained in the secure digital cards and laptop units used during the elections.
The Comelec issued the order on July 12, the same day the PET resolved to issue a protection order to preserve the integrity of all election paraphernalia used in the May elections.
According to the Comelec, the stripping activity was needed because the cards and VCMs were going to be used for the November 2016 barangay (village) elections. The barangay elections however were postponed to next year.