BY ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS ON MAY 17, 2018
VICE President Maria Leonora G. Robredo must be having a lot of sleepless nights. Her tenuous hold on her post may just see its days numbered, more so with the recent ouster of Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno from a post she illegally held for six years.
And Robredo’s shady hold on power is now banking on the incomplete shading of ballots as her protective wall against a possible debacle. She already lost a 21,000-vote advantage over her closest rival, former senator Bongbong Marcos who has filed an electoral protest against her. And there are indications that this trend will continue, as more incompletely shaded ballots are expected to be discovered. What makes this expected trend a plausible reality is that she filed a petition with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) asking it to honor incompletely shaded ballots. She even rallied 10,000 Camarines Sur voters to join her in filing an appeal. The urge to consider those problematic ballots is so strong among her supporters that it even led Etta Rosales, Fr. Robert Reyes and Sr. Mary John Mananzan to commit the grave mistake of running to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which is a wrong forum since technically it does not have any jurisdiction over the matter.
Even Sen. Bam Aquino has to pose with his entire family wearing shades, if only to dramatize the hashtag campaign launched by Robredo supporters to leave those incompletely shaded ballots alone.
All these acts, from the legal to the comic, only prove that the camp of Leni Robredo know with certainty that these insufficient ballot shadings could cost her the vice presidency.
The tragedy of Robredo is that this recent antic only dramatizes in a symbolic way the illegitimacy of her claim to the post. She is banking on insufficient compliance with voting procedures to save her seat. She asks the Republic to reward her with a seat that she would have earned from voters who simply are lazy in shading the ovals, or who ignored the repeated instructions on how to shade those ovals properly. The Sex Bomb Dancers and Love Añover had to dance their way to instruct voters on this very crucial task, even as the Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voters (PCRV) repeatedly reminded voters to shade fully those ovals, and that the vote counting machines (VCMs) would not count a shading that is less than 50 percent.
Thus, in order for Robredo to hold on to her seat, she has to convince us that her voters are lazy or ignorant, to a point that they could not follow simple instructions.
What is even more abhorrent is when the Robredo camp would attempt to mislead the public by insinuating that there was tacit approval by Comelec of the 25 percent minimum threshold that they are now appealing to be considered by the PET.
This is patently a lie.
A minimum threshold is a significant element of the voting system, considering that all VCMs will have to be programmed to reflect such threshold. It is not a minor thing that can just be determined as an afterthought, and conveniently cited after the elections. Such threshold will have to be determined and agreed upon, with all parties informed about it, before the elections. It is a fact, as ruled by PET, that there is no single document to show that the Comelec had passed a resolution setting the minimum shading threshold to 25 percent prior to the 2016 elections.
What is clearly evident is that in the 2010 elections, the Comelec used 50 percent as the threshold, and since then it did not bother to pass any resolution to change it to 25 percent prior to the 2016 elections. Thus, the PET has adopted in its rules the 50 percent threshold, the same threshold that was used for the 2010 elections. There was no need to convene the PET in 2013 considering that it was a mid-term election, where there were no presidential and vice-presidential contests. Nevertheless, it is important to reiterate that there is no single document where Comelec has approved changing the threshold to 25 percent for the 2013 elections.
In fact, the 25 percent threshold was mentioned only in an opinion written by Commissioner Louie Guia four months after the May 2016 elections, but only in reference to the random manual audits of ballots, and not on the manual recount. Comelec Executive Director Tolentino also admitted that the Comelec has no rules on manual recounts. What the Comelec en banc resolved was not an unequivocal shift to 25 percent, but simply to affirm the opinion of Commissioner Guia.
Thus, a logical reading of the Comelec action would point out the glaring fact that there was no tacit and explicit approval to use the 25 percent minimum shading threshold for the May 2016 elections.
Hence, this opens to serious questions the integrity of the elections and goes into the heart of possible election fraud. The fact that Robredo is losing votes when the PET revising teams use the legally known minimum threshold of 50 percent can only mean that what was used by the VCMs during the 2016 elections is the unapproved 25 percent.
Who approved this? Why was it not determined openly and explicitly through a Comelec resolution prior to the elections, after consultation with all concerned parties?
And going straight into the heart of Robredo’s possible fraudulent election to the vice presidency is the question as to why it is only her votes that appear to be affected when the PET uses the legally approved minimum threshold, enough for her to appeal that we should use the 25 percent.
Any rational, non-partisan mind, when confronted with these questions, can only but entertain the thought of a fragile, if not dubious mandate upon which Robredo rests her claim to the vice presidency.
Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno was ousted because her peers judged her as lacking in integrity that is essential to the post of Chief Justice. What is being assailed now is the integrity of the very process that led to the election of Maria Leonora G. Robredo to the vice presidency.
It is not farfetched that Robredo may be the next to fall, as the Republic seeks to recover its bearings and get rid of those who occupy positions to which they are not entitled since they have not acquired the legal right to hold these.