The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has stood by the 25-percent shading threshold it used in counting the votes cast during the May 9, 2016 election.
The poll body on July 23 submitted its comment to the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), in compliance with a court directive connected to Vice President Leni Robredo's appeal for the application of the 25-percent standard in the ongoing vice presidential votes recount.
"To reiterate, for purposes of the 09 May 2016 National and Local Elections, Comelec, in order to ensure that votes are not wasted due to inadequate shading or that not accidental or unintended small marks are counted as votes in order to reflect the true intent of the voter, had set the ballot shading threshold at 25 percent," the Comelec said in its comment.
The Comelec asserted its constitutional power to not only administer elections and decide all questions affecting polls even while it acknowledged the authority of the PET to be the sole judge of all election contests relating to the president and the vice president.
"In deciding election disputes, like election protest, decisions should be based on the standards and procedures used during the conduct of elections and in ascertainment of election results," the Comelec said.
"To use different standard would be erroneous and may result to unnecessary questions on the legitimacy of all elected officials, from the President down to the last Sangguniang Bayan member," it added.
The Comelec's position contradicts that of the Office of the Solicitor General, which had backed the 50-percent threshold in favor of Robredo's challenger, former senator and defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
The PET currently applies a 50-percent threshold in the manual vote recount, a practice Robredo and her allies say would lead to the "massive disenfranchisement" of voters whose system-counted 2016 poll choices might be invalidated during the recount.
To recall, the OSG, supposedly the lawyer for the Comelec, assumed a position independent of its client's over the shading threshold issue.
It submitted a manifestation with motion instead of a comment, where it deemed the 50-percent threshold "reasonable" for purportedly being based on the "inability of the human eye to distinguish the 25-percent threshold."
In its comment, the Comelec said the Random Manual Audit process used a "diagrammatic guide" that was consistent with 25-percent shading marks "when seen by human eyes."
"It cannot be overemphasized that the threshold issue as it is now being presented is more an issue of fact than a question of law," the Comelec said.
"Otherwise stated, it is more an issue of what was used to appreciate, count votes and proclaim winners, than an issue of which rule, as between those of Comelec and the Supreme Court, should prevail."
Comelec backs Robredo appeal: 25% shading threshold used in 2016 polls
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent