HRET to check ballots containing LRV votes

By Jason B. Neola


It is easy to claim that a defeated candidate won in an election protest but to prove the legitimacy of the winning, especially when it involves corrupted ballots, is a difficult thing.


This was the statement released by the district office of Congressman Gabriel H. Bordado in reaction to the news circulating on social media stating that the late Luis R. Villafuerte, who lost in 2019 elections to Bordado, has “actually won over the sitting congressman by 776 votes” in a manual recount of the physical ballots representing 25 percent of the protested cluster precincts.


The Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office in Pili, Camarines Sur officially proclaimed Bordado, who garnered 102,343 votes, as congressman for the 3rd District of Camarines Sur on May 15, 2019. He beat Villafuerte who garnered 80,847 votes.


Sabas Mabulo, head of Bordado’s district office, said the news report was premature considering that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has yet to complete the revision proceedings before it starts the process of determining the validity of the alleged winning.


The news even presumptuously said that “Bordado should not stay a minute longer as a legislator in the Batasan Complex as he is not the one and true occupant of the seat reserved for the 3rd District of Camarines Sur, considering that he did not actually win in the 2019 race.”


The news, whereupon the writer cannot even name specifically its sources at HRET and did not care to get the side of Bordado, said Villafuerte got 94,830 votes against Bordado’s 94,054 votes in the recount – or a margin of 776 votes in favor of Villafuerte.


“A well-organized ploy,” Mabulo said as he described the maneuverings that appear to convince the public to believe that Bordado lost in the 2019 elections.


In 1998, an electoral protest was filed against then Congressman James Jacob after he won the elections for representative of the congressional district (then the province’s 2nd District). Jacob won in the protest after it was proven before the HRET the use of fake ballots in the protest by his political rivals.


Lawyer Maico Julia Jr., Comelec Naga City chief, said the ballots have security code, features or markings that one cannot counterfeit or fabricate.


Atty. Irene Cunanan-Estrellado, counsel for Bordado, filed with the HRET a manifestation with motion to order decryption of SD (secure digital) cards and printing of ballot images, audit and transmission logs and other election documents.


Mabulo said thru the motion, which was already granted by HRET to start several days after the revision proceedings, it can be expected that the authenticity of the ballots that contain the 776 votes in favor of Villafuerte will be determined including the 696 fake ballots, which the Villafuerte camp alleged, with votes in favor of the sitting congressman.


The following grounds established by Bordado’s camp to file the motion:


1. In all of pilot precincts, the number of votes for both parties per election return did not tally with the physical count.


2. The staggering extent of variance between the number of votes per election return and per physical count, viz:

3. Numerous cases of double shading resulting to stray votes, which is highly unlikely not to be recognized by vote counting machines (VCMs) if the double shading were done before the ballots were fed to the VCMs.


4. Spurious ballots which bear different signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), without holograms and of different sizes, texture, and thickness.


In his order dated December 10, 2021, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, HRET chairperson, directed both the protestant and the protestee to “file their respective motions for the decryption of the SD cards and the printing of the ballot images and other election documents contained in the SD cards not later than 5 days from the termination of the revision proceedings.”