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Wet ballots, ‘missing’ audit logs mark first day of manual recount

Wet ballots and "missing" audit logs became the issue on the first day of the manual recount  for the electoral protest of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

While Marcos claimed these could be signs that the 2016 election was marked by irregularities, the camp of Robredo said there is "nothing to worry about" the wet ballots and the supposed missing audit logs.

According to Marcos, all ballots from four clustered precincts in the municipality of Bato in Camarines Sur have been found wet, making their contents "illegible."

"Hindi namin maintindihan papaano [nabasa], imposible naman siguro na dalawang taong basa 'yan. Palagay ko, kailangan talaga pag-aralan kung paano nangyari 'yan. Ibig sabihin kasi kung may nagbasa, may nagbukas nung ballot box," he said.

But according to Robredo's election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, the wet ballots had been in that state even before being transported to the Supreme Court for the recount. Dismissing possible sabotage, he said the ballots could have gotten wet in a storm.

"There's no sabotage, wala 'yun. 'Wag niyong ire-report 'yun, fake news 'yun. Kawawa naman 'yung mga taga-Camarines Sur," Macalintal told reporters in a separate briefing.

Marcos' camp also questioned that 39 out of 40 clustered precincts in the same town had no audit logs. "Bakit walang audit log?" Marcos said. "Ibig sabihin binuksan 'yung ballot boxes, kinuha 'yung audit log. At hindi namin makita."

The audit logs, he said, record the time a voting precinct opens and closes and the time the vote-counting machines (VCM) are fed votes. These logs show if a VCM reported earlier or later than scheduled.

In response, Macalintal said missing audit logs are "only technical defects" that will not affect the accuracy of the vote count.

"That's not a determining factor na nagkaroon ng anomalies," he said. "If ever, these are only technical defects or technicalities which will never affect the genuiness and accuracy of the count."

"Ang pinag-uusapan diyan, tama ba ang bilang, hindi tama ba ang audit logs," Macalintal added.

The manual votes recount in three of Marcos' pilot provinces kicked off Monday morning, with 40 revision committees composed of three people each chipping away at some 1,400 ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, Robredo's bailiwick.

In a statement, the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), said the principal objective of the recount "is to ascertain the number of votes received by both parties in the May 9, 2016 national elections."

Under Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules, the recount — or revision, in PET terms — will be limited to three pilot provinces that Marcos had chosen — Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental — covering 5,418 clustered precincts. —KBK, GMA News