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Business group airs concern on recount

THE Makati Business Club (MBC) issued a statement last week urging the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to apply the same rules in its ongoing recount of vice-presidential votes as those the Commission on Elections (Comelec) used in its count after the 2016 elections.

The PET recount is not a business and economic issue but the Makati businessmen said they should speak up because “political stability and consistency in the laws, regulations, and policies are the cornerstones that have produced the business confidence, job creation, and strong growth of recent years.”

They see the PET’s use of different rules in its recount of votes for Vice President Leni Robredo and protesting candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as endangering this stability and, therefore, business confidence in the country.

When the country held its first automated elections in 2010, the Comelec, then headed by Chairman Jose A. R. Melo, issued rules governing the elections, including rules in case of a recount. These rules provided that a voter must shade the oval opposite his candidate’s name at least 50 percent. However, it was added, in a recount, “the will of the voters reflected as votes in the ballots shall, as much as possible, be given effect, setting aside any technicalities.”

In the next presidential election in 2016, the Comelec, now headed by Chairman Andres Bautista, approved a new resolution stating that in the event of a recount in a poll protest, a 25 percent shading of the oval is the new guideline. This may have been due to the finding that many voters did not shade the ovals by 50 percent, at times merely marking it with a check.

It was this new benchmark of 25 percent shading that the Comelec used in the 2016 elections which elected President Duterte, Vice President Robredo, and 12 new senators. Marcos has protested the election win of Robredo – without any reference to the matter of shading percentage – and the PET has begun a recount in selected provinces.

But the PET has ordered that only ovals shaded 50 percent be counted, in accordance with the original Comelec resolution of 2010. It said it is not aware of the new Comelec resolution for the 2016 elections, providing for 25 percent shading. Therefore, all these months that the PET has been doing its recount, it has come up with totally different results from the Comelec count.

In the meantime, the PET has been busy trying to enforce its order for all concerned to follow the sub judice rule. The Marcos and Robredo camps have accused each other of violating the rule. We really should be able to have a recount without unnecessary comments and charges and counter-charges from either side and their supporters.

But the greater concern should be the need for the PET recount to use the same rules as the Comelec count. Otherwise, the entire election – including those for president and senators – will be under question, as the Makati Business Club said in its statement last week. And that would lead to instability of the first order.