The 25-percent threshold for valid vote set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the 2016 polls upholds the intent of the voter, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo said Sunday.
Robredo was responding to the Comelec’s comment filed before the Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), which sided with Robredo’s appeal that the ongoing recount of votes from the 2016 race for Vice President should use a 25-percent threshold in accordance with multiple Comelec resolutions issued for the 2016 polls.
The ongoing manual poll recount is based on a protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Robredo’s 2016 victory.
“The Comelec resolution of using 25-percent as threshold was made because voters cannot be disenfranchised. Yes, the Comelec’s instruction to voters was to shade the ovals in the ballot [beside their preferred candidate], but there are people who have failed to comply. But what is clear here is the 25 percent shows the intent of the voter,” Robredo, a lawyer, said in her radio show “Biserbisyong Leni.”
“The Comelec did not want the machine to count unintended markings or smudged ink, so they have determined that 25 percent would be enough to show the intent of the voter and would not disenfranchise the voters,” she added.
The vice president dismissed the claims that the Comelec sided with the 25-percent valid vote threshold because it was conspiring with the Robredo camp.
Robredo said that under the Random Manual Audit Visual Guidelines of Comelec, a valid mark is a mark whose score is higher than the Vote Counting Machine’s (VCM) mark detection threshold of 20 to 25 percent or higher of the oval.
The same Comelec guidelines provide that a valid mark is one that the VCM always recognizes as a vote intention and once cast, counts for the candidate or selection made.
In addition, the Comelec’s 2016 National and Local Elections Random Manual Audit Report states that the Comelec set the threshold to 25 percent “to ensure that the chances of a mark would be read as a vote.”
The poll body also issued a September 2016 resolution setting 25 percent as a valid vote threshold for the manual counting of votes for the Marcos protest.
“The Comelec has issued a number of decisions about what is the valid vote threshold before and after the elections. What we are asking is for the PET to use the standard that was used in the 2016 polls because we can’t change the rules in the middle of the game,” Robredo said.
Robredo beat Marcos by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 polls.
The Marcos camp favors the 50- percent valid voting threshold — a position that was supported by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Instead of filing a comment before the Supreme Court as counsel for the Comelec, Calida filed a separate comment favoring the 50-percent valid voting threshold, which was under the 2010 PET rules.
Calida campaigned for Marcos during the 2016 race for Vice President.
Robredo earlier said that Calida has incompetent to comment on the valid vote threshold, considering his known ties to the Marcoses.
“Calida was supposed to represent the interest of the Comelec. It is just baffling that as Comelec’s lawyer, the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) went against the wishes of its client,” Robredo said then, referring to the PET decision in April ordering the Comelec to comment on her pending appeal asking the electoral tribunal to set the valid vote threshold at 25 percent in accordance with the Comelec’s 2017 resolution.
The OSG asked for three deadline extensions to comply with the PET order, but it ultimately deviated from Comelec’s position and made its own stand.