The officers of the Philippine Judicial Academy, in my meeting with them in mid-March 2010, said that they were then awaiting Comelec’s guidelines in order to train judges on handing disputes in the automated election system. It is interesting that the Comelec’s most recent guidelines on recounts is the one now being presented as consistent with those that were in place with the courts.
If this form of argument were in an electronic spreadsheet there would be a prompt saying "circular reference error".
While some argue that the presidential (PET), senatorial (SET), and the house of representatives (HRET) electoral tribunals are independent of the Comelec and may promulgate their own rules, it will be untenable to have a situation where one loses in the Comelec count but wins in the tribunals’ own by virtue of difference in the rules.
Therefore, did the Comelec avert a potential contentious situation with the latest revision of the recount rules? Looks like they did indeed. Instead of being the ones to set the rules, it looks though that the tribunals had instead prevailed upon them.
To my knowledge, the first ever recount of protested ballots in the 2010 polls will be conducted next week or 10 months after the winners have been proclaimed. Contestant Lito Atienza sought a recount of ballots of the May 10, 2010 election won by Alfredo Lim in the mayoralty race for the city of Manila. Recounting will start on March 29 for ballots coming from 200 polling stations. I look forward to observing this one and the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections' (Namfrel) request for an observer status has been sent to the Comelec.
But before then the question becomes, what orientation or training did the Comelec give to the members of the recount committee and candidates’ representatives to ensure proper and uniform appreciation of the ballot and the votes?
Item (h) of Rule 15 of resolution 9164, distinguishes between “voting marks” and “identifying marks.” The former are “markings placed beside the ovals that may appear to show intent of the voter to vote for a party,” while the latter is supposed to be “intentionally placed to identify the ballot or the voter”. Voting marks may be subject to claims, while identifying marks could be subject to objections. Does the Comelec have clear guidelines on these for the recount participants?
The precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines were not programmed to read voting marks outside the ovals unless that mark smudges the timing tracks or the bar code on the ballot. In both cases the machine will reject the ballot because it can neither locate the mark on the oval nor authenticate it. Accidentally smudging or soiling any other part of the ballot, however, will not cause it to be rejected and the voter will not be disenfranchised.
In the same news article (above), the Comelec chairman said that a manual recount of the ballots “will be a tool to validate the results of the PCOS count last May, if they are correct or not“.
By allowing voting marks to be possibly counted as a vote, using the principle of honoring voter intent, when this could not have been determined with the use of the PCOS machine, the Comelec has changed the rules. Therefore, expect different results between the count of May 10, 2010 and that of the recount. Whether issues concerning voting marks will be many enough to change the result would be anybody's take though.
(Part 2 of 4. Link to Part 1 is at: http://telibert.blogspot.com/2011/03/recount-redux.html.)