Rama poll protest: Battery spill damages some ballots

THE panel conducting a manual recount of contested ballots from Cebu City has found several ballots damaged by leakage from the battery of a vote counting machine (VCM), which was inserted in one of the ballot boxes.

Lawyer Michael Garcia, Recount Committee chairperson, said that the termination of the proceedings could not be recommended the soonest possible time as they have found several damaged ballots.

"Hindi ito mate-terminate since may ballot boxes na. May isang ballot box kami yesterday na may battery sa loob. Ito yung battery ng VCM," Garcia told SunStar in an interview.

"Siguro nai-place lang ng mga teachers sa loob. Dahil hindi nila alam kung saan ilalagay, inilagay nila dun. Nagleak siya so hindi namin siya marerecount dahil yung paper sa loob shredded na due to the leak," he added.

Garcia said he expect for more issues from the ballots to be inspected by the 10 committees created by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

"So far right now wala pa. Pero nag-eexpect ako dahil from the reports dun sa inventory meron mga mabibigat na boxes. Once na alam mong mabigat yung boxes alam mong may tubig 'yan," Garcia said.

All the ballots that are found to have water damage will be subject for decryption, according to Garcia.

Under Rule 15 Section 6 (q) of Comelec Resolution 8804, a different authentication process must be conducted for all ballots that are tampered.

"In the event that the recount committee determines that the integrity of the ballots and the ballot box were not preserved, as when there is proof of tampering or substitution, it shall proceed to instruct the printing of the picture image of the ballots of the subject precinct stored in the data storage device for the same precinct. The commission shall provide a non-partisan technical person who shall conduct the necessary authentication process to ensure that the data or image stored is genuine and not a substitute. It is only upon such determination that the printed picture image can be used for the recount," the resolution read.

Garcia said he can only recommend the termination of the recount once the ballots are already counted through ballot images.

"'Pag nagsubmit kami ng report kailangan yung decrypted ballots, kung meron kami ide-decrypt, meron kami printed ballot image, ire-recount din namin 'yun," he said.

"Magme-memo ako ulit for the reconstitution of the previous recount committee. 'Pag nakumpleto na namin 'yun saka ako magre-report na pwede na siya isubmit for resolution," he added.

Garcia said the proceedings could end in a month or so.

"Hopefully. Kung wala nang aberya pa," he said.

Garcia said the Comelec has already reviewed the ballots from 40 polling precincts being contested by former Cebu City mayor and defeated 2016 mayoral candidate Michael Rama.

On May 20, 2016, Rama filed an election protest against Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña before the Comelec Second Division.

The protest, supported by 42 barangay captains urged the Comelec to conduct a manual ballot count of votes in 20 percent of the total 837 precincts in Cebu. The recount covers 168 ballot boxes.

Osmeña defeated Rama in the last elections by a margin of 34,036 votes. (SunStar Philippines)
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