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Bilang dapat ang boto: FEU Law Dean Mel Sta. Maria calls PET’s dismissal of 25% shading threshold ‘revolting’

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Far Eastern University Institute of Law dean Mel Sta. Maria is dismayed by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal’s (PET) decision raising the threshold for shaded ballots in the manual recount of votes for the vice presidential race to 50 percent.

In his April 20 column for the Manila Bulletin, Sta. Maria called the PET’s ruling “disturbing” because it will render the votes of thousands of voters invalid due to a “mere procedural requirement.”

“That the right of suffrage can be negated by the technicality of an inadequate shading is revolting. The Supreme Court said: ‘The right to vote has reference to a constitutional guarantee of the utmost significance. It is a right without which the principle of sovereignty residing in the people becomes nugatory. In the traditional terminology, it is a political right enabling every citizen to participate in the process of government to assure that it derives its power from the consent of the governed,'” he said.

The PET cited as basis for disregarding the 25 percent threshold the Commission on Elections Resolution No. 8804, which stated that “any shading less than 50% shall not be considered a valid vote.”

However, the resolution was amended by Comelec Resolution No. 9164 which removed the 50 percent threshold but did not impose a new one.

“Perplexingly, PET concluded that, since Comelec ‘did not provide any other threshold,’ the 50% threshold in the old PET rules should be followed…,” Sta. Maria noted.

Under the manual voting system, the law dean recalled that the vote for a candidate was counted even if there were errors in writing his name.

“Errors, inaccuracies and inadequacies were overlooked for as long as the candidate who was voted can be determined,” he said.

If that were the case in manual polls, Sta. Maria said the default mode in the manual recount of polls for the vice presidential race should be “to count” and not “to not count.”

He said the Comelec removed the 50-percent threshold in counting votes so “the appreciation of votes will not be based on an inflexible standard that can effectively thwart the electorate’s will.”

“If there is a 47% or a 25% shade, surely a vote was cast,” Sta. Maria said.

The abogado lauded Vice President Leni Robredo for appealing the PET’s ruling and dared her opponent, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to follow suit.

“If he is truly interested in the votes’ integrity, he should join Vice President Leni Robredo’s motion. That is a clear way to show that he is also concerned with avoiding the electorate’s disenfranchisement, that, like Vice President Robredo, he too, is for the good of democracy,” Sta. Maria said.