from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.8
namfrel.com.ph

The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal started on April 27 the recount proceedings for the congressional race in the lone district of Biliran (it finished the following day). In the May 2010 election, former governor Roger Espina won by only 360 votes over his opponent, former Rep. Glenn Chong.

The recount was prompted by the electoral protest filed by Chong, who reportedly accused Espina of rigging the congressional elections in the province by allegedly using a secret precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, a charge the lawmaker strongly denied and described as “ridiculous.” Rep. Espina (Liberal Party) currently chairs the House Committee on Population and Family Relations.

The HRET manual revision process covered only 42 pilot clustered precincts, or 25% of the total number of precincts involved in the protest (HRET rules) — in this case all 166 total clustered in the province of Biliran. A more detailed explanation of the Biliran case can be read in Biliran Blogs (http://www.biliranisland.com/blogs/? p=2783). At the conclusion of the revision process, the results in the precincts covered reportedly remain unchanged.

It was the HRET’s first recount proceeding under the new election process; the case is one of 48 electoral protests filed before the Tribunal in connection with the May automated elections. The HRET is composed of nine members, three of whom are Supreme Court justices while the remaining six are House members chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system. The chairperson of the Tribunal is Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio
Morales, and the members are: Supreme Court Associate Justices Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura and Arturo D. Brion, Rep. Rodolfo B. Albano, Jr., Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, Rep. Joselito Andrew R. Mendoza, Rep, Justin Marc SB. Chipeco and Rep. Ma. Theresa B. Bonoan-David.

The cost of the electoral protest against Espina was reportedly bankrolled by ordinary citizens in Biliran. According to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in February (http://bit.ly/lbFLRG), a group called “Manual Recount Fund-Raising Campaign for Truth and Justice” pooled resources and sought contributions from businessmen, “fish vendors, pedicab drivers, students, young professionals and ordinary citizens” to raise money for the electoral process.

HRET denies NAMFREL request
NAMFREL wrote the HRET to be allowed to observe and document the recount proceedings to help ensure that the process will be transparent, credible, and acceptable to the parties concerned. However, in a resolution released by the Tribunal, signed by Associate Justice Eduardo Nachura, the request to observe was denied, saying that “the Tribunal strictly limits access to the revision area only to those persons directly involved in the proceedings.” It also says that “the conduct of the revision meets the standards of transparency, credibility and acceptability to the parties concerned, considering that both protestant and protestee are ably represented by
their respective counsels and party revisors.” You may read the resolution here: http://scr.bi/lck8Sg.

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