The camp of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said they will seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to oppose the Commission on Elections (Comelec) returning 1,365 Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) to technology provider Smartmatic, saying the move has no approval from the Supreme Court (SC).
Jose Amorando, lawyer for Marcos, said the vote counters were part of the Precautionary and Protection Order (PPO) released by the electoral tribunal last August.
Also on Wednesday, lawyers for Marcos and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo and officials of the Comelec and Smartmatic went to where the 1,365 VCMs were kept–the JAM Liner Warehouse in Barangay Pulong, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Laguna, south of Manila.
Marcos is protesting the proclamation of Robredo after the May 9, 2016 polls, saying he was cheated in three provinces and some areas of the country through manipulation of the VMCs and Comelec servers.
“According to the PPO issued by [the Presidential Electoral Tribunal], all machines, election paraphernalia that were used during the last elections should be preserved, and should not be tampered with in preparations for whatever proceedings in the protest of [Marcos]. Now, these contingency machines were used during the last elections as contingency VCMs. Some of them were deployed admittedly during the earlier meetings in different areas. Some of them were left here in Santa Rosa. At least that’s what Comelec Director Jose Tolentino presented in our meeting this morning,” Amorado told reporters in a chance interview.
The Marcos lawyer said he will file the necessary motion next week.
Tolentino, Smartmatic general manager Elie Moreno, election watchdog Glenn Chong and Robredo’s lawyer Beng Sardillo went to the warehouse.
Sardillo said the Vice President does not oppose the return of the VCMs to Smartmatic.
Chong described the act of Comelec as suspicious because it only informed the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that it was allowing Smartmatic to retrieve the machines without asking permission first.
“The importance of this move is to remove any doubt on whether these machines were actually tampered with. In so far as our technical people are concerned, there is no way that the Comelec will be able to prove that these machines were not actually used. Plus, from the legal standpoint, these machines were used actually as contingency machines. Whether they were opened is beside the point,” Amorando said.
He added that they expect the electoral tribunal to move fast and maybe by November they will start the recount of protested election precincts.
Tolentino said the turnover of the 1,365 VCMs will continue on October 26 unless they receive an order from the tribunal prohibiting the transfer.