SC: Comelec, not Marcos, must pay for storage fees of ballot boxes

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), ruled that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must pay for the storage fees of election materials kept in foreign posts.

In a 6-page decision dated October 10, the PET denied the Comelec's petition requesting that the storage fees be shouldered instead by former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, who had filed an electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo

The PET's ruling on the Comelec's petition against Marcos was sent to reporters by his camp on Monday, October 30. (READ: Comelec starts decryption of ballot images in VP electoral protest)

The storage fees for the election materials kept in New York and Hong Kong alone have reached over P4.5 million.

The Comelec had wanted Marcos to pay for the fees, arguing they could not ship the ballot boxes and other election materials due to a Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) issued by the PET in August. (READ: SC grants Marcos petition to protect poll materials)

The PPO, which Marcos had requested, sought to direct the Comelec to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all ballot boxes, their contents, and all other election-related paraphernalia in all 92,509 clustered precincts used in the May 2016 polls.

The Comelec reasoned that it could not bring back these election materials to the country within the period required by the PPO, resulting in additional costs.

But the PET did not agree. It said that the PPO did not prohibit the Comelec from transferring the election materials to the poll body's main office in Intramuros, Manila.

"There is nothing in the PPO that prohibited the physical transfer of the election materials and paraphernalia; the Comelec was merely required to preserve and safeguard their integrity. Thus, the Comelec's proffered reason that its faithful compliance [with] the PPO has no basis," said the PET.

"As mentioned, the PPO is clear in that the Comelec and its agents were ordered to preserve and safeguard the integrity of the election materials and paraphernalia which could be done even if they needed to be transmitted to Comelec Central Office."

The PET added that the Comelec "could have simply secured permission" from the court to transfer the election materials, but the poll body did not make any requests. 

Marcos' lawyer and spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said the PET's ruling is a "positive development" for them. 

"This is certainly a very positive development for Senator Marcos. As you can see, our opponents are making things more difficult for us by trying to delay the case and making us pay left and right without any basis. We are glad that the PET denied these unfounded and unnecessary moves so our case can finally move forward," Rodriguez said. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate 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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