POSTSCRIPT / July 10, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Comelec affirms 25% oval-shading

MANY readers want to see the Commission on Elections’ resolution setting a 25-percent threshold in the valid shading of the ovals on the ballot in the 2016 election, an issue crucial to the poll protest of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vs Vice President Leni Robredo.

To clarify the shading issue, we secured pertinent documents, including Comelec’s letter dated Sept. 6, 2016, to Atty. Felipa B. Anama, Tribunal Clerk of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that is recounting the votes involved in the Marcos-Robredo case.

The letter, with the guidelines needed by the PET attached, was sent by Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia, Oversight Commissioner for the Random Manual Audit 2016, as ordered by the Comelec en banc in a resolution signed by Chairman J. Andres D. Bautista and Commissioners Guia, Christian Robert S. Lim, Al A. Parreño, Luie Tito F. Guia, Arthur D. Lim, Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon and Sheriff M. Abas.

The Comelec letter to the PET said: “We address your request for ‘a copy of the Smartmatic Guidelines’ for vote appreciation which was used in the Random Manual Audit. Said Guidelines is actually an illustration of the different types of marks or shadings that would be read either as votes on non-votes by the optical scan counting system adopted for the 2016 elections (which was the same technology used in the 2010 and 2013 National and Local Election).

“The system adopted is designed to scan every oval on the ballot and count as vote those that contain appropriate marks based on pre-determined shading threshold. Although the voters are told through the voter information efforts of the Commission to shade the ballots fully, the shading threshold was set at about 25% of the oval space. This is to help ensure that the votes are not wasted due to inadequate shadings or that no accidental or unintended small marks are counted as votes. In other words, when a mark covers at least 25% of the oval, said mark is supposed to be considered a vote by the system. On the other hand, when the mark or shading covers less than 25% of the oval or when there is no mark at all, no vote is supposed to be counted. In the random manual audit therefore, only the appropriately registered marks or shadings (those that were supposed to be read as votes by the system) are considered to have correctly expressed voters’ intent.

“Considering, however that visual (manual) appreciation of votes can only approximate the precision by which the machine is supposed to read the ballot marks or shading, the technology provider provided the Random Manual Audit Committee of the Commission with the aforesaid visual illustration referred to above, which we are now forwarding to the Tribunal for its use in the pending election protest before it.”

We said in Postscript on Sunday that since the votes were counted using the 25-percent minimum shading, arbitrarily doubling that threshold to 50 percent would substantially alter the count and the direction of any pending election protest. This would be unfair and unjust.

In a democratic process of supreme importance such as an election, the rules should not be changed in the middle of the game – much less after. Whatever was the shading threshold used in the voting and counting must be consistently observed.

 Duterte’s dare: Who’s without sin?

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not yet quoting the Bible, but we can almost hear him taunting religious leaders “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” in their dialogue scheduled to begin yesterday.

As late as Friday, Duterte in a speech in Davao City was still harping on alleged indiscretions of the clergy, going to the extent of reading to the crowd salacious reports on one of the priests gunned down in April. He also repeated his claim that in his youth, he was fondled by a priest in the confessional.

While insisting that he believed in “one supreme God… a universal Mind somewhere,” he said he would resign as president if anybody could come back with a selfie with God. He did not say which God.

In his hour-long rambling, Duterte continued conditioning the public to accept his loose concept of marriage by counting on his hand his two wives (naming them) and his three or four girlfriends (one has given up on him, he said).

The former student of the Ateneo and San Beda made fun of matrimony, and other sacraments, in what looked like an attempt to influence his listeners to harbor the same disrespect he has for the Church and its teachings.

In our conversation Friday with Pastor Saycon of the Palace panel tasked to reach out to religious leaders, he talked of a “forgiving” Church. He welcomed the conciliatory remarks of Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on the need for everybody to be calm and at peace. (Saycon, btw, is not a pastor; it’s just his given name.)

The Church keeps its arms open for those who have strayed, but Duterte talks like he wants the Church to bend to his will. That is not likely to happen as even Catholics who take their faith for granted have been offended by his attack on God and their religion.

It is doubtful if Duterte’s campaign to shame prelates and expose Church shortcomings will force the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to capitulate on matters of faith and morals.

When Duterte opens discussion with his friend Davao archbishop Romulo Valles, who is CBCP president, he will not be negotiating with a “company union” but will be informed of what the majority of the CBCP wants to convey to the President.

We expect the Church to reiterate its views on human rights, extrajudicial killings, crime and corruption, and the need to care for the less privileged members of society – with the CBCP offering to step up its collaboration in social amelioration.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 10, 2018)

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