Contrary to a popular notion that the recount involves a simple re-counting and re-tallying of votes, what Commissioner Sarmiento described was a long process of checking and validating results. Applied to the Pineda vs. Panlilio case, the recount process is as follows:
Timeline of the Case
• On May 25, 2007, defeated candidate Lilia Pineda through her legal counsel, Atty. George Garcia filed an election protest against Gov. Panlilio on allegations of: a) mis-appreciation and misreading of ballots and b) fraud and irregularities such as massive cheating, vote-buying and harassment of teachers and pollwatchers of the rival camp;
• Pineda’s petition specifically asked for a recount, where misread or misappreciated votes were to be counted in favor of Pineda. All ballot boxes from all the polling precincts in Pampanga (except Angeles City) were to be brought to Manila for the recount. In the event that the recount will yield a result favorable to her, Pineda has asked the COMELEC to proclaim her as Governor and annul the proclamation of Gov. Panlilio.
• Gov. Panlilio, through his legal team, filed a counter-protest on June 12, 2007 followed by a Motion to set Affirmative Defenses for Dismissal of Petition on July 2, a move that was denied by the COMELEC on July 23, 2007.
• Gov. Panlilio’s legal team filed a Motion for Reconsideration on July 31, 2007. The division’s presiding commissioner, Florentino Tuason Jr., dismissed the motion on August 1, 2007 and issued a notice of order to do the recount and revision. Pineda issued a check dated July 31, 2007 in the amount of P4,000,886.00 as deposit for the revision.
• A legal battle ensued and the issue was elevated to the Supreme Court (SC). The SC En Banc, on July 15, 2009, ordered the COMELEC to proceed with the recount. The process started on August 12, 2009 with a 45-day timeframe for its completion.
• Twenty one (21) Revision Committees, each consisting of six (6) revisors were constituted. All the ballot boxes from the province’s twenty towns and one city (City of San Fernando) were brought to Manila and distributed among the twenty one revision committees
• On the first day of the revision, the ballot custodian opened the ballot boxes and observed the condition of these boxes and their contents (taking note of the serial number, the condition of the padlocks and inner seal, and the documents contained therein). The observations were noted in the minutes of the proceedings.
• The ballots were segregated according to vote (per candidate – Panlilio, Pineda, Lapid and Stray Votes). Stray votes include those earlier declared as null and void (e.g. name of candidate not written on the proper space; name written on the ballot not accepted initially such as Nanay for Baby Pineda or Among for Gov. Panlilio).
• As the process progresses, ballots with Pineda votes are given to the revisors of Panlilio and ballots with Panlilio votes are given to the revisors of Pineda. It is up to the revisors to validate and register any objection (e.g. presence of unnecessary markings, etc.). It is also up to the revisors to claim votes for the candidate they are representing or contest the votes of the opponent. Objections and claims are noted down, collated and submitted to the Chairperson of each revision committee who is tasked to prepare a revision report for the precinct/cluster of precincts assigned to his/her committee.
• The revision is expected to be finished by September 2009 following the 45-day timeframe set by the COMELEC. After the revision, all reports will be collated by the counsels of both parties and will be offered as evidence to the 2nd Division of COMELEC.
• The 2nd Division will study the reports and in the event of any doubt on the veracity of these reports will go back and examine the ballots for validation. After studying the revision reports, the 2nd Division will issue a resolution.
• After the 2nd Division issues a resolution, any of the contesting parties can file a motion for reconsideration. In this eventuality, the case is to be elevated to the COMELEC en banc and raffled off among the COMELEC Commissioners, one of who will be responsible for deciding whether to sustain or to reject the resolution. In case of a tie in the voting on the case, the COMELEC Chairman will break the tie.
• After the COMELEC en banc’s decision is issued, the losing party can file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court which will make the final decision on the matter.
The public is advised to stop believing in unfounded claims that this or that candidate is gaining edge over his/her rival. Results of the recount/revision will not be final until after the resolution is issued by the COMELEC En Banc (and Supreme Court En Banc if the case is elevated to the SC). Factual information from PPCRV (which coordinates directly with the COMELEC 2nd Division in monitoring the recount process) can be accessed at the following websites: www.rcasf.com; www.sacop.org.ph ; www.ppcrvnamfrel.blogspot.com; www.hrp-sac.blogspot.com; and www.parokya-santalucia.org or call the PPCRV-Pampanga Secretariat at tel. nos. 860-53-38 or 961-41-12.