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PET orders Leni, Bongbong camps to explain disclosure of info on VP vote recount

The Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) wants to know why the camps of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo have disclosed "sensitive" information in the ongoing vice presidential vote recount despite being ordered not to.

In a notice of resolution dated April 10, the PET gave both parties 10 days from receipt of notice to show cause and explain "why they should not be cited in contempt for violating the Resolutions dated February 13, 2018, and March 20, 2018."

The resolutions ordered the parties to "strictly observe the sub judice rule pending the proceedings" of Marcos' poll protest.

The sub judice rule, which means "under judicial consideration," "restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice," the Court held in Romero vs. Estrada.

"However, despite these stern directives of the Tribunal, several news reports have shown that the parties, their counsels and/or representatives, have nonetheless continued to disclose sensitive information regarding the revision process to the public, in clear violation of the aforementioned resolutions," the notice, sent to reporters on Thursday, said.

The manual vote recount that is part of Marcos' poll contest protesting Robredo's victory in the 2016 elections started on April 2.

On the first day, Marcos alleged the discovery of wet ballots and supposedly missing audit logs in more than 30 ballot boxes from a Camarines Sur town. To this, Robredo's counsel, veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, said there was "nothing to worry about," claiming wet ballots were commonplace and ballot images could easily be printed.

A former commissioner of the Commission on Elections, meanwhile, said audit logs are, by procedure, not placed inside ballot boxes.

Allegations soon emerged that unused ballots were found to be "pre-shaded" in favor of Robredo, a claim described by Robredo's lawyer as an attempt to confuse the public.

Updates from either camp have since subsided in the days that followed, but not before each let themselves be interviewed by the media on separate occasions, giving statements that for the PET are "within the clear ambit of the sub judice rule."

At least 40 revision committees composed of three people each are chipping away at some 1,400 ballot boxes from Camarines Sur, Robredo's bailiwick.

The revisors will also recount ballots from Iloilo and Negros Oriental, making for ballots from a total of 5,418 clustered precincts. The results of this recount will determine whether or not Marcos' poll protest will push through with the remaining 31,047 contested clustered precincts. — RSJ, GMA News