PPCRV PR 2
September 10, 2009
Contact: PPCRV Secretariat at Tel. Nos. 860-53-38 or 961-41-12
Long tables and benches occupied by twenty one revision committees fill the lobbies and the corridors of the 7th and 8th floors of the Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros. The now familiar sight of yellow ballot boxes with masking tape seals and padlocks litter the hallway, some waiting to be picked up for the revision and some with the “Revised” label waiting to be hauled back to the warehouse.
The revisors are hard at work – sorting and segregating the ballots, opening the ballot boxes with the help of a wrench, examining the condition of the boxes and the documents contained therein, recording the observations, writing reports, photocopying contested ballots, etc. Once in a while, they briefly lift their gaze to welcome visitors and guests with inquisitive looks or cheerful greetings.
Such is the atmosphere at the COMELEC office, site of the on-going physical recount of ballots. As Kapampangans wait with bated breaths for the outcome of the on-going recount of the gubernatorial votes (Lilia Pineda vs. Eddie Panlilio, filed on May 25, 2007), the COMELEC office in Intramuros, Manila hums with activity in a bid to beat the 45-day timeframe set for the completion of the recount process.
True to its commitment to monitor the recount process and give factual information to the public, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV-Pampanga) sent four representatives to the COMELEC office on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 to document the recount process and hold an audience with Hon. Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Presiding Officer of the COMELEC 2nd Division for updates.
“We have a week to go before we wrap up on the physical recount,” said Comm. Ferrer. He pointed out that this is 10 to 15 days less than the original target of 45 days. The recount of Pampanga votes started on August 12, 2009 after the Supreme Court en Banc ordered the COMELEC to proceed with the recount in a ruling issued last July 15, 2009. (Please see attached Status of Recount).
Comm. Ferrer explained that when Gov. Panlilio filed a motion to suspend the recount for a few weeks due to lack of funds to pay for his revisors, the COMELEC responded by speeding up the process to cut down on the number of days and, hence, on cost. Panlilio’s camp responded by appealing to its revisors for a little sacrifice to allow them to decrease the daily allowance from P550 to P 300 per day, a move that has allowed Panlilio to continue sending revisors.
Comm. Ferrer emphasized that at this point, it is impossible for anybody to know how the COMELEC will rule on the case. This runs contrary to earlier news reports that Pineda was winning in the recount and would assume office as Governor of Pampanga before the year ends. Both Comm. Ferrer and Atty. Allen Francis Abaya, Clerk of Court of the COMELEC 2nd Division assured the public that both parties will be given a fair chance to prove and disprove allegations based on concrete evidence to be presented during the hearings.
The two COMELEC officials added that after the physical recount, a legal battle is expected to ensue between the parties (Pineda and Panlilio) to assert their positions – a battle that may reach the Supreme Court. Following the physical revision of the ballots, the Clerk of Court will collate individual reports from each of the twenty one committees for submission to the 2nd Division which is composed of the following Commissioners: Hon. Nicodemo T. Ferrer (who succeeded Comm. Florentino Tuason and Rene Sarmiento as Presiding Officer of the 2nd Division); Hon. Lucenito N. Tagle and Hon. Elias R. Yusoph. The 2nd Division will then set hearings, examine the reports and the contested ballots and review the evidences presented by both parties before coming up with a resolution on the case. Motions and counter-motions could be filed with the COMELEC en banc and appeals could be filed with the Supreme Court later.
When asked about the pending disqualification case filed by Averell Laquindanum against Lilia Pineda for vote-buying, Comm. Ferrer stated that its outcome will not, in any way, affect the recount case. He added that the disqualification case which stems from an alleged election offense was re-raffled and is now handled by the 1st Division. It was revealed that the ponente is currently in the process of penning a resolution on the case.
“We appreciate organizations like the PPCRV which help us reach out to voters (so that they will be aware of what is going on),” said Comm Ferrer. “In protest cases such as this, people are usually suspicious of what we are doing. It causes unnecessary tension,” he added, noting that this is a celebrated case that is closely followed by the media and the people. He appealed to the lawyers of both parties to “help us do our job well instead of causing confusion by issuing premature claims”.