It’s former senator Bongbong Marcos and not the government who should pay Smartmatic P2 billion for the release of the questioned Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) that was used during the May 2016 elections.
Thus, said former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban as he dissected the details of Marcos’s poll protest in his Inquirer column Sunday (December 18).
Panganiban said that the SC, which is handling Marcos’s petition in its capacity as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), had issued a preliminary precautionary order requiring the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to collect, preserve and safeguard the devices and documents used in the protested precincts, including the VCMs, the automated ballots and the secure data cards (SD cards).
Marcos’s petition claims that there was “cheating” in 39,221 clustered precincts involving 97,366 VCMs in 25 provinces and five cities. However, Comelec needs to pay a 10-figure sum if it wants to get a hold of the VCMs.
“In a resolution dated Dec. 6, 2016, the PET noted that the turnover to the Comelec of the 97,366 leased VCMs subject of the protest may impel the Comelec to pay Smartmatic, the owner of the VCMs, ‘a total of P2,078,304,225.76.’
“Why the Comelec would have to pay this staggering amount is beyond me. I think Marcos should pay it,” Panganiban wrote.
If anything, Panganiban said that the losing vice presidential candidate doesn’t even need the VCMs if what he’s gunning for is a recount.
“Feeding the ballots into these machines would be impractical and time-consuming because of their exposure to dust, water and the like while they were kept in the warehouses.
“After all, the SD cards contain images of the ballots cast in the polling places concerned and can be decrypted in special laptops in the Comelec, in the presence of the parties and their lawyers. If properly preserved and safeguarded, they are the speedy source of the election data,” he explained.
Marcos lost by only 260,000 votes against eventual vice president, former Camarines Sur congresswoman Leni Robredo last May.