LAWYERS of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Thursday bared that 150 supposedly unused vote-counting machines (VCMs) were found to have been tampered with corrupted memory cards, raising the possibility that electronic evidence of fraud may have already been wiped out.
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The camp of Marcos, who is protesting the narrow election victory of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), again hit the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for violating an order to preserve all election equipment. The Comelec, it said, conducted a 14-hour activity to strip more than 1,000 VCMs at its warehouse in Santa Rosa, Laguna on Wednesday, ahead of their turnover to equipment and technology provider Smartmatic.
The Comelec earlier decided to grant Smartmatic’s request to recall 1,365 VCMs that it said were neither deployed nor used in the May elections. Wednesday’s stripping activity, the Marcos camp said, was “a mockery of the judicial process and a travesty of electoral reforms.”
Marcos counsel Jose Amor Amorado said the poll body disregarded a precautionary protective order issued by the PET to preserve all election materials. “There was undue haste seen as erasing possible evidence,” Amorado said. “We find it extremely incredible why Comelec could openly defy such a lawful order of the highest court of the land just to accommodate Smartmatic, and appeared to be on a rush to turn over the VCMs to Smartmatic,” he added.
Sole and exclusive jurisdiction Marcos did not participate in the stripping activity at the Comelec warehouse in Laguna, maintaining that such a move must have the approval of the PET, which has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over his election protest.
The stripping activity started at around 10:30 a.m. and ended at 12 midnight. Representatives of Robredo, Sen. Leila de Lima and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino were present. Tolentino is contesting the 12th senatorial slot won by de Lima.
Also present was Smartmatic representative Ellie Moreno.
During the stripping activity, at least 150 boxes were segregated because of defects in the seals and presence of data in the SD cards. Some VCMs had missing SD cards. A total of 1,255 VCMs were cleared and expected to be turned over to Smartmatic on Thursday. The next stripping activity for the remaining VCMs will be on November 2. Amorado said the presence of corrupted SD cards, when these were supposedly not deployed or used, was proof that the Comelec should not have decided to release the VCMs. Marcos had petitioned the PET to stop the stripping.
Tension occurred between the camps of Robredo and Tolentino when the latter refused to take part in the activity beyond the initially scheduled 5 p.m. deadline. Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim however allowed the stripping until 12 midnight to “maximize the time.”