MANILA, Philippines – The camp of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr believes they have a stronger election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo, after data were found in some SD cards retrieved from supposedly unused vote-counting machines (VCMs).
"This strengthens our position that massive fraud was indeed committed in the last elections because SD cards from unused VCMs should be empty. However, we have confirmed today that indeed they have data in them so that bolsters our position," said Marcos' legal spokesperson Vic Rodriguez on Monday, January 16.
Representatives from the defeated vice presidential candidate's camp attended the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decryption of 26 untouched SD cards on Monday, and found that these supposedly "clean, empty, [and] sealed" cards contained data.
Thirteen out of the 26 cards, so far, were found to have folders with data in them during the decryption. Asked what kind of data were in them, Rodriguez said those were Smartmatic Automated Election System (SAES) files.
The lawyer cited the Comelec as explaining that only service provider Smartmatic can explain the nature of those files. (READ: Marcos to SC: Order Comelec to bare 'unused' SD cards)
"Regardless of the size or content, these SD cards from 'unused or undeployed' VCMs should be clean, empty, and free of any files as they are supposed to be 'virgins' and 'sealed,'" said Rodriguez.
"This is highly questionable. This also supports our contention that the VCMs should be preserved until the election protest is concluded in the PET (Presidential Electoral Tribunal) because they represent an important aspect in the protest," he added.
Better to finish decryption
Sought for an explanation, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said it is better to let the process of decryption be completed first.
"Better for the Comelec – for the whole process – if we just stick to what's going on right now (decryption)... We cannot speculate what the files are," he told Rappler in a phone interview. "Kung totoo ngang may laman (If those indeed contain data), there are a lot of possible explanations for that."
Jimenez said that as soon as the process is completed, the results will be forwarded to the Supreme Court, sitting as the PET. No timeline was set for the completion of the decryption.
In July last year, the PET granted Marcos' petition to preserve all election paraphernalia related to his case against Robredo.
The Comelec, however, proceeded with the stripping and turnover of the unused VCMs last October, which the Marcos camp denounced. (READ: Marcos to Comelec: Why 'strip' VCMs despite SC protection order?)
Marcos, who lost his vice presidential bid by just 263,473 votes, accused Robredo and the Liberal Party of orchestrating election fraud. Robredo countered that Marcos' election protest is baseless. (READ: Robredo replies: Why SC should dismiss Marcos Jr's protest) – Rappler.com