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Comelec revises protest rules, allows ballot images as evidence


The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has revised its rules on protest cases to allow the using of ballot images as primary evidence.

Poll chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Thursday this would be cheaper than using the paper ballots—which will have to be shipped from the protested precincts and stored at the Comelec warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna—for manual recount.

"Ang matagal noon 'yung retrieval of ballot boxes and then ang storage,” Brillantes said. “Ngayon you can dispense from all these by simply choosing decryption. You now waive the physical examination of the ballot."

The Comelec so far has received 69 poll cases in connection with the May 13 midterm elections.

Every ballot-reading Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine has a removable storage device that stores an image of every ballot inserted by the voters.

According to Resolution No. 9720, which amends Resolution No. 8804, "the protestant may... waive the recount of the paper ballots and instead resort to either the decryption and recount of the ballot images."

The protested and counter-protested precincts should be at most 20 percent of total number of precincts "to best illustrate the merits of the protest," the amended resolution states.

Meanwhile, another option for protestants is to "read the rejected ballots only of the entire protested or counter-protested precincts," the Comelec's new rules said.

The rejected ballots, stored in envelopes after being spoiled, do not have PCOS images.

"It's very possible that these rejected ballots can determine the intent of the voter," Brillantes said.   

For cases of corrupted compact flash cards, which store the election results, Brillantes said "decryption is not the remedy (but) actual physical count."

The poll chief said protestants usually call for a manual recount in such cases.

Brillantes said they would handle cases in the city, provincial and regional levels.

He said through their new rules, the protestants could hold simultaneous cases with regional trial courts or the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in the case of district representatives, since these would have access to paper ballots.

"Pwede na sila tumuloy sa RTC while we are reviewing the ballot image," Brillantes said.

The poll chief noted that no less than the Supreme Court had said that ballot images can be used as primary evidence when it  ordered the Comelec to do a recount of the ballot images in the case of Imus mayor Emmanuel Maliksi.

Last April 11, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier ruling that unseated Maliksi and remanded the case back to the Comelec

In Vinzons-Chato vs. HRET, the SC said the ballot images "as scanned and recorded by the PCOS, are likewise 'official ballots' that faithfully capture in electronic form the votes cast by the voter." — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News