Comelec starts decryption of ballot images in VP electoral protest

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) began to decrypt and print the ballot images for the 3 pilot provinces of Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental, in relation to the electoral protest of former senator  Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.

On Tuesday, October 24, both the camps of Robredo and complainant Marcos confirmed that the decryption process began on Monday, October 23. (READ: TIMELINE: Marcos-Robredo election case)

The Comelec started the process after getting the green light from the Supreme Court (SC), acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). (READ: SC forms teams for revision of ballots in Marcos-Robredo election case)

At this stage, ballot images and other data found in the secure digital cards in the ballot boxes concerned will be decrypted and printed at the poll body's main office in Intramuros, Manila.

Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez said the printed images will "facilitate and expedite" the election protest of his client. 

"We are glad that the case is finally moving forward because each step forward is a step closer to the truth," he said. 

Rodriguez estimated the decryption stage will take about 7 months, but Robredo's lawyer Bernadette Sardillo told Rappler "the timetable will depend on Comelec."(READ: Robredo hits Marcos 'fake news' he'll soon become VP)

Rodriguez claimed the Robredo camp tried to postpone the decryption process by filing a motion before the PET, telling the court they only brought two revisors. 

But Sardillo said the Vice President's camp never filed such a motion.

"We deny making such [a] motion. We have made no such motion and there was no attempt to delay the proceeding on our part. The official record of the proceedings will speak for itself," she said.

"Mr Marcos should advise his lawyers to look promptly at their own submissions to the court and get their facts straight so they can say who has been causing delays in this case," she added.

On Wednesday, Robredo slammed the Marcos camp for spreading "fake news" about the electoral protest.

"Noong una kong nabasa ['yong sinabi ng kampo niya], natawa ako, pero sabi ko nga, parang hindi naman nadadala itong mga Marcos... Alam natin na nauuso ngayon iyong fake news, pero hindi naman kailangang makiuso siya," the Vice President told Brigada News FM Sorsogon.

(The first time I read about what his camp had to say, I laughed, but I also told myself it seems the Marcoses have not learned their lesson... We know that fake news is in today, but they don't need to join the bandwagon.)

She then warned the public that the Marcos camp will allegedly stop at nothing to fulfill their desire to return to power.

"Parang inyong experience natin sa kanila, kapag eleksyon, ayaw tumanggap ng pagkatalo. Nandaraya [sila]. Pero ngayon, parang may dumagdag nang pandaraya, mayroon nang fake news," said Robredo. 

(Our experience with them every elections is that they can't accept defeat. They cheat. But there is a new form of cheating now, there is now fake news.)

"Hanggang ba naman ngayon, dahil hindi niya nakuha iyong gusto niya, magsisinungaling pa siya, guguluhin niya iyong mga tao sa mga balita na hindi naman totoo?" she added.

(Just because he didn't get what he wanted, he'd lie about it and spread news to the people that's not even true?)

Marcos had accused Robredo and the former ruling Liberal Party of cheating in the 2016 elections and filed an electoral protest against the Vice President. 

In his complaint, Marcos wants the PET to allow a ballot recount in 36,465 clustered precincts, his second cause of action. 

The PET, however, ruled that the initial recount of ballots will have to be conducted in Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental first to determine the merit of Marcos' electoral protest.

Marcos is also seeking to have votes nullified in 3 provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), his third cause of action. (READ: 2016 Bongbong vs Leni poll protest: What ARMM 'election fingerprints' say

He wants the PET to conduct a technical and forensic examination of all ballots in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao. The PET has deferred action on this matter. 

VP delaying protest?

The Robredo camp had accused Marcos of violating the PET's 3-pilot-provinces rule by requesting for the technical and forensic examination in the 3 ARMM provinces.

On Tuesday, the Marcos camp alleged that this was part of the delaying tactics of the Vice President.

"All these constant and spurious delaying tactics by the Robredo camp have been going on for more than a year now. What are they afraid of?" asked Rodriguez.

"If they believe she won, they should be rushing to count the ballots so that this issue could finally be laid to rest, in her favor. Instead, they have adopted a strategy of delay and obfuscation."

Sardillo, however, said Rodriguez is "not totally being honest" whenever he accuses the Robredo camp of delaying the electoral protest.

"Maybe he should look at their own submissions so he can honestly say who has been causing delays in the case. After all, who failed to comply and submit the names of witnesses despite being directed to do so?" said Sardillo.

She added that their camp had promptly complied with all PET orders so far.

Marcos has not yet submitted the names of witnesses to the PET to support his electoral protest. He already dropped the submission of testimonial evidence for his poll fraud claims in 36,465 clustered precincts, saying this would best be proven through a ballot recount. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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