Former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has submitted to the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), the issues to be resolved, list of witnesses, and other documents in relation to his poll protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Filed by his lawyers on Friday, the preliminary conference brief enumerated the three pilot provinces for the vote recount or revision which under the Rules of Tribunal will best attest to the votes recovered or will best exemplify the merits or legitimacy of his protest.
They are Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental.
Marcos also asked for a technical examination of the voters' signatures appearing on the Election Day Computerized Voter’s List (EDCVL) as against the voters’ signatures appearing on the Voters Registration Records (VRRs) in each of the 2,756 clustered precincts in Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao.
He said the technical examination may be conducted by the handwriting experts of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The former senator also asked for the immediate collection, retrieval, transport and delivery of all ballot boxes and their contents in all the protested clustered precincts of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
He also called for the creation of two more panels of commissioners consisting of three members each to assist the Tribunal during the reception of evidence and trial proper.
A total of 362 witnesses were listed in the preliminary conference brief who may be called upon by the PET to testify and submit supporting evidence.
The witnesses include Comelec officials led by Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, Directors Jose Tolentino, Esther Roxas, J. Thaddeus Fernan, Teopisto Elnas and Ferdinand De Leon; Smartmatic executives Marlon Ramos and Elie Moreno, election officers in the 33 contested provinces and cities as well as election and information technology experts.
Both Marcos and Robredo had been directed to submit their respective preliminary conference brief on or before Friday. The PET set the preliminary conference on the case for July 11.
Explaining the basis for tagging Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental as pilot provinces for the manual recount, Marcos' spokesperson Victor Rodriguez said there were major discrepancies in the votes cast in the ballots and those transmitted by the vote counting machines (VCMs) and reported in the certificates of canvass (COCs) in these provinces.
Rodriguez said it was highly improbable for Robredo to corner 80 percent of the votes in her home province of Camarines Sur when other vice presidential candidates were either from the Bicol region or had ties in the said region.
Robredo obtained 643,865 votes as against Marcos’ 40,195 votes in the May 2016 election, according to the former senator's camp.
The other Bicolano candidates namely Senator Francis Escudero, who is from Sorsogon, got 36,509 votes while Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, whose wife is from Albay, received 14,601 votes.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV got 11,334 votes while Senator Gregorio Honasan II, whose mother is from Sorsogon, garnered only 7,005 votes.
As for Iloilo, Rodriguez wondered why Robredo obtained 573,729 votes as against Marcos’ 94,411 votes when his running mate, the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, was from Iloilo.
Marcos received 99,208 votes in Negros Oriental as against Robredo's 248,102 votes even though the former senator reportedly got the backing of the "biggest political families" in the province.
Rodriguez added the three provinces had some of the highest undervotes recorded which raised suspicion on the results of the polls.
Undervotes are ballots not counted either because the voter did not vote for a certain position or there were unclear markings in the ballot.
“According to election experts from here and around the world, the acceptable rate of occurrence of undervotes should be just 1 percent," Rodriguez said.
"But when the undervotes are more than 5 percent like in these three provinces, that should cause alarm and suspicion because it is not normal. And we are talking about a hotly contested vice presidential race, we should expect Filipinos to really vote for the said position and not just leave it blank or put unnecessary marking that would invalidate their vote,” he added.
Marcos proposed the creation of at least 100 recount/revision committees to conduct the manual recount and judicial revision of the paper ballots and/or ballot images as well as technical examination, forensic investigation, verification and analysis of the documents, paraphernalia and equipment used in the elections in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
He also called on the PET to order the decryption and printing of ballot images from the clustered precincts of the 30 contested provinces subject of his poll protest.
Marcos is asking for a manual recount of votes from 36,445 clustered precincts in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Cebu Province, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Masbate, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Bukidnon, Iloilo Province, Bohol, Quezon, and Batangas.
Completing the list are Western Samar, Misamis Oriental, Camarines Sur, second district of Northern Samar, Palawan, Albay, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Occidental, Pangasinan, Isabela, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City and Zamboanga City.
The former senator, meanwhile, called for the nullification of results from 2,756 clustered precincts on the ground of terrorism, intimidation, harassment of voters, substituted-voting, pre-shading of ballots, and other forms of electoral fraud.
Manual recount in Capiz, Sulu, North Cotabato
Robredo, for her part, designated the provinces of Capiz, Sulu and North Cotabato as pilot areas for the manual recount in her counter protest.
She said the issue on the integrity of the automated elections system raised by Marcos should be resolved first before the PET acts on the former senator's plea to annul the poll results in several clustered precincts in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao and judicial recount of the ballots.
"Protestee Robredo believes and maintains that the issue on the integrity of the automated election system used in the 09 May 2016 national and local elections affects not only her victory but the proclamation of all winning candidates from the President to the lowest councilor," the Vice President's preliminary conference brief read.
Robredo is also open to the possibility of asking for the decryption of the secure digital (SD) cards and the printing of the ballot images, election returns and audit logs from the contested clustered precincts.
She also informed the PET of her interest in seeking the technical examination of the EDCVL and other election documents in the clustered precincts which are the subject of her counter protest should there be a need for it.
“Marcos is throwing everything on the wall, hoping that something sticks,” the preliminary conference brief stated.
"For protestee Robredo, and to the millions who voted and supported her, the only truth is that she has been validly voted upon and proclaimed as Vice President of this country."
Marcos lost to Robredo by just 263,473 votes in the May 2016 election, the closest vice presidential contest since democracy was restored in 1986. —KG/ALG, GMA News