THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has warned the Supreme Court that the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo could cost more than P2 billion.
The high court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), last month took note of a Comelec manifestation that it needs to secure 97,366 units of vote-counting machines and the election management system and accessories, which were leased for the May 2016 elections from Smartmatic-TIM, Inc.
Citing its lease contract with Smartmatic, Comelec said it “may be required to pay P2,078,304,225.76 on account of the election protest.”
The poll body attached certified true copies of the financial breakdown agreed upon by the Comelec and Smartmatic, itemizing the costs of the goods “should the Total Purchase Option under the two AES (Automated Election System) contracts be exercised on account of the instant election protest.”
The PET is unable to move on the vice-presidential electoral protest until the Comelec, composed of appointees of the previous Aquino administration led by its chairman, Andres Bautista, complies with an earlier order to protect all election machines and paraphernalia.
Marcos alleges that Robredo benefited from the rigging of the elections done by the Liberal Party headed by former president Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The Comelec also reported to the PET that it would release 1,356 units of supposedly unused vote-counting machines as requested by Smartmatic, arguing that these were not covered by the Precautionary Protection Order issued by the tribunal.
The Marcos camp opposed the move, claiming some machines had been tampered with, but Comelec went ahead and stripped the machines in July.
The PET’s last order was for the preservation of the “automated election equipment and records such as Vote Counting Machines (VCM), 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, who lost the vice-presidential contest by 263,473 votes, accused Robredo and the Liberal Party of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies and irregularities” such as pre-shading of ballots, pre-loaded secure digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning vote-counting machines, and an “abnormally high” number of unaccounted votes and “undervotes.”