MANILA, Philippines – The lawyer of Vice President Leni Robredo turned to a 2016 resolution by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain why audit logs cannot be found inside 38 ballot boxes to be used in the vice presidential electoral protest recount.
On Tuesday, April 3, veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal continued to debunk ex-senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr's insinuations that several ballot boxes may have been tampered with. (READ: Bongbong Marcos: Ballots from 4 precincts 'recently wet')
Bongbong raised the possibility that someone may have opened the ballot boxes to retrieve the audit logs, which contain crucial information such as the exact times the precinct was opened and closed, as well as when the first and last votes were recorded and transmitted, among others.
His sister, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, also held a press conference on Tuesday to defend her brother.
"So we're wondering why these audit logs are missing, when in fact, this is the critical, it's the absolute critical piece of paper required by law that tells you that the votes came in at the right sequence on time and during the period that they should have been counted," said Imee.
But Macalintal said this is not an anomaly, as audit logs should not be found inside the ballot boxes in the first place.
Section 29(f) of Comelec Resolution No. 10057, released on February 11, 2016, states that the precinct audit log report and other pertinent election documents are to be delivered to the election officer of the city or municipality after the counting of votes in the precincts.
"Mr Marcos should apologize to the BEIs (Board of Election Inspectors); otherwise it is sending a wrong signal that the BEIs including teachers were ignorant of said guidelines," said Macalintal.
"And as protestant, Mr Marcos can always ask the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) for the production of these audit logs by Comelec," he added.
But it seems Macalintal only remembered the Comelec resolution on Tuesday.
The day before, he explained that the BEIs who handled the 38 ballot boxes may have just forgotten to put the audit logs inside.
Both Bongbong and Imee also called out Macalintal for downplaying the wet ballots from Bato town in Camarines Sur, Robredo's home province.
"Pinagtataka namin [kung bakit] inu-underplay nila itong mga wet ballots. Ayaw nilang payagan na dapat invalid na dapat 'yan 'di ba? 'Pag nakita mong spoiled by liquifying, by wetting, eh talagang 'di nababasa," said Imee.
(We're wondering why they're underplaying the issue of the wet ballots. They don't want to accept that the ballots should be deemed invalid already, right? When you see the ballots have been spoiled by liquifying, by wetting, they really won't be readable anymore.)
In a Facebook post, Bongbong also said wetting ballots before a recount "has been the practice of the cheaters."
He also found "laughable" Macalintal's explanation that the ballots became wet due to a typhoon in December 2017.
"We find it ridiculous, almost laughable, that Robredo's lawyer, Attorney Macalintal, readily explained that the reason why the ballot boxes were wet was because there was a storm in Camarines Sur," said Bongbong.
"The last storm in Camarines occurred 4 full months ago. Funny guy," he added.
Bongbong explained that ballot boxes are supposed to be "100% weatherproof" and "waterproof." But election lawyer Emil Marañon III, a consultant for the Robredo camp, said ballot boxes are designed to contain a hole where ballots from the vote-counting machines (VCMs) can enter.
"At minsan ang mga ballot boxes ay nakatago lamang sa mga gym o sa open basketball court, exposed sa elements. Bakit ganito kaluwag? Kasi nga may ballot images naman na puwede balikan anytime," added Marañon in a Facebook post.
(And sometimes the ballot boxes are kept at gyms or open basketball courts, exposed to the elements. Why the leniency? Because there are ballot images that can be checked anytime.)
A ballot image is the scanned version of a ballot taken as soon as the voter inserts it into the VCM.
Bongbong previously questioned the presence of square marks on the ballot images to be used in the recount, claiming it is a sign Robredo colluded with the Comelec and Smartmatic.