PET, not Comelec, can release vote-counting machines

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FORMER Sen. Bongbong Marcos

FORMER Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has the sole authority to decide on the release of Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) to Smartmatic and not the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In an 11-page Urgent Manifestation and Motion, the senator, through his counsel, George Garcia, asked the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as PET, to stop the poll body from releasing the unused 1,356 VCMs to Smartmatic since it is a violation of the Precautionary Protective Order (PPO) issued by the Tribunal.

“Protestant Marcos respectfully submits, however, that Comelec cannot release the subject VCMs as the determination of whether they were used in the 9 May 2016 elections and are thus, covered by the PPO, is solely within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Tribunal. As can be inferred from its letter dated 27 September 2016, the Comelec made a unilateral determination that the subject VCMs are not within the scope of the PPO,” the motion said.

Garcia added that should the Commission proceed with the release of the VCMs on Oct. 26, 2016, the same may be considered a contempt of court because it is a “disobedience of or resistance to a lawful order of the court” as provided under Section 3, Rule 31 of the 1997 Rules of Court.

He also raised doubt on the assurances given by the poll body that through a mere examination of the VCMs and the SD cards, they will be able to determine if they were used since there is always the possibility of switching.

With this, the lawyer said any technical evaluation on the subject VCMs should be made under the direct supervision of the High Tribunal.

“For purposes of determining the inclusion or exclusion of the subject VCMs from the PPO, protestant Marcos implores the High Tribunal to direct the technical examination of the subject VCMs, their SD cards and the system logs containing the deployment and use of the VCMs during the 9 May 2016 Elections,” he added.

Earlier, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim wrote PET Chairman, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, on their decision to grant the request of Smartmatic to release the said VCMs that were not supposedly used during the elections.

Last Friday, the poll body through, Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino conducted a briefing at their warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna in the presence of all the parties in the ongoing Elections Protests in the PET and the Senate Electoral Tribunal on the protocol that will be observed on the release of the VCMs this week. (PNA)

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