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Boracay closure not only for rehab, but also for public safety

Tomorrow (April 26, 2018), what tourists had known as the paradise island will be closed to visitors, at least for six months to allow rehabilitation work to be carried out without hindrance. This is bite-the-bullet treatment imposed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte after an inter-agency task force validated the rampant violations of environmental laws and the building code in the over-congested island. Many businessmen and workers on the island protested that this measure is too harsh. “Punish only those who broke the law,” many resort owners urged.

Boracay

Government workers get ready to provide assistance to displaced workers in Boracay when it is shut down to tourists starting April 26. (Inquirer photo by Nestor Burgos)

But it’s not about finding out who did wrong and limit the fall-out to them and their employees. Boracay Island is now an ICU patient from the environmental point of view. Pictures emerging from the island last week showed the green algae growth on the beaches has gone up, an indication that the coliform level in the water has reached a dangerous point.

Hence, this closure is not only about a clean-up; it’s also protecting the tourists from possible diseases caused by coliform bacteria. It’s a public health issue that should not be ignored in favor of protecting businessmen and workers from the economic losses the closure will bring.

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Showdown

Last week, radio reporter Febe “Bords” Morales of Aksyon Radyo 720 posted on his Facebook wall a photograph of Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Sr. chatting with former 4th District Board Member Mitch Monfort-Bautista with her husband at the Capitol. It was made to look like Aksyon Bords stole a picture through a small opening of the door. But it wasn’t really a scoop; it was a deliberate media leak hatched at the Capitol to show a possible alliance between the Defensor family and Mitch Monfort, daughter of the late Cong. Dr. Narciso Monfort, in the next elections. Far from being kept a secret, the meeting was intended to be leaked to send a message to Dr. Ferj Biron, M.D., the incumbent congressman of the 4th district who is poised to run for Governor against Rep. Arthur “Toto” Defensor, Jr. in the May 2019 elections.

mitch monfort with defensor

Photo credit: Febe “Bords” Morales of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo

From what we are seeing, there is no more turning back for Defensor and Biron. Biron is reportedly fielding one of his sons to replace him as congressman, and the meeting between Gov. Defensor and Mitch Bautista is an indication she will run again and challenge the son. She ran and lost to Biron in the May 9, 2016 elections. Defensor is now sending a message to Biron that the latter’s turf will face a tough challenge. And we can expect Defensor to put up candidates for Congressman and municipal mayors in other districts.

Early on, Biron has started courting the support of the congressmen and municipal mayors in the province. A year ago, Defensor Sr. and his son, along with Representatives Arcadio Gorriceta, Biron and Raul “Boboy” Tupas agreed to field a consensus candidate to represent their alliance. Biron was able to gather the commitment of support of most of the municipal mayors in the province. He was quick to claim the title as consensus candidate. But Defensor Sr. backtracked on his commitment for a consensus candidate and announced the candidacy of his son.

It’s still a good one year before the elections are held for Governor, but the protagonists can now be narrowed down to just the two: Biron and Toto Defensor. Cong. Oscar Richard Garin Jr. of the 1st District had initially shown interest in becoming the third force in the equation. The controversy over the Dengvaxia vaccine, however, in which his wife Janette played a key role (she was listed as among the former public officials to be charged criminally by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee) doused cold water on his plans. He has since kept quiet on the gubernatorial race.

Comelec, Marcos asked to comment on shading issue raised by Leni

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, on Tuesday directed the Commission on Elections and former Senator Bongbong Marcos to file their comments on the motion for reconsideration made by Vice President Leni Robredo on its ruling to nullify votes counted in her favor that fell below the 50% threshold for shading set in 2010.

This directive is part of the due process that the PET needs to observe before it makes a final ruling on the issue.

Leni has complained that her votes were being “systematically decreased” in the manual recount as the revisors found thousands of ballots that were only shaded 25% in the oval across her name. From the tone of her petition to the PET, it would sound as if her survival in the game depended on the tribunal’s agreeing to her position.

There is no way the PET will grant her petition. First, this shady rule about 25% being acceptable for a vote to be credited to her was never announced before the elections. So much television airtime and newspaper space, not to mention the on-the-ground instructional sessions, were used up to educate voters that for a vote to be counted, the oval should be FULLY shaded. But then, the Comelec still issued guidelines in 2010 that in a manual recount, ovals shaded 50% would still be counted. Nothing has come out from Comelec changing that before May 9, 2016.

How come it’s only Leni who is using this line of reasoning? Does it mean that Bongbong Marcos didn’t encounter such kind of shading for votes cast in his favor? If you ask me, this minute resolution adopted by the Comelec in September 2016 — a good four months after the elections — was not even a policy resolution. It merely adopted the memorandum sent by its oversight commissioner to the PET. It doesn’t carry the force of law.

Second, the PET should investigate these ballots with 25% shading. One-fourth of the oval is not shading. It’s a mere blot done hurriedly. This could be another evidence of the massive cheating that took place, an assembly-line act to hurriedly deliver more votes for Robredo as the cheating machinery rushed to catch up with Marcos and eventually overtake him for the fraudulent victory.

1/4 shading for Leni is cheating, period.

How difficult is it to shade a small oval to indicate a voter’s choice among candidates for a political position? Well, with the use of a marking pen, it doesn’t take one second to fully shade the blank space inside the oval. It would be more difficult keeping the shading from spilling out of the oval itself. Hence, it is hard to imagine how a voter, even the old who might have difficulty holding the marking pen, could possibly shade only 1/4 of the oval.

ballot shading

That’s especially when we consider that the candidate is a local bet aspiring to be Vice President of the Republic. If the voters, thousands of them in Camarines Sur in this case, really rooted for Leni Robredo, they would have taken extra care in shading the oval just to make sure their votes are properly credited to her.

It must also be recalled that for months before the elections, the Comelec and media organizations, especially TV, aired voter education activities, and much airtime was spent showing voters how to properly shade the oval. Nothing was left to chance, and shading the oval just 1/4 of the space simply cannot be justified.

This is the reason the efforts of Leni to get the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to accept her argument that 25% shading of the oval is sanctioned by Comelec. With the small size of the oval, 1/4 is more like a dot using the marking pen. It is not the kind of shading a voter would make to express his or her vote. It is more consistent with haste and rush to mark hundreds, if not thousands of ballots, by one individual.

What this indicates is fraud, especially because it involves thousands of ballots found with only 25% shading. It unmasks the gigantic cheating to add votes for Leni and enable her to catch up with her rival, Senator Bongbong Marcos, who had led by 1.9 million votes going into the third day of the national canvass in May 2016. As experience has shown time and again, a trend is established early in the first six hours of an electronic canvass, and never is reversed in the way Robredo squeaked past Marcos.

Leni won by “systematic cheating”

It is now a downhill ride for Leni Robredo towards oblivion. The “systematic cheating” that propelled her to a hairline victory over former Senator Bongbong Marcos in the May 9, 2016 elections is now being uncovered in the ongoing manual recount before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). What she has described as “systematic decreasing” of her votes in her motion asking the PET to apply the 25% threshold is merely reversing the outcome of the cheating. She is now becoming the victim of her own — and the Liberal Party’s — cheating machinery.

leni robredo credit inquirer nino jesus orbeta

Photo credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Yesterday (April 20, 2018), a debate broke out on my Facebook wall over a report that Leni has already lost as much as 5.000 votes in the first two weeks of the manual recount. Two rabid supporters of Robredo joined the thread and claimed this report about the 5,000 votes was “fake news”. Now that is amusing, because at least two national newspapers quoted insiders at the PET as the source of this information. And Leni herself used the term “systematic decrease” to describe what is happening.

The PET denied her motion. She has appealed. By the way she sounds now, it’s as if her survival depends on persuading the PET to allow the 25% shading to be counted as valid.

Of course, the issue about shading isn’t the only factor that will lead to Leni’s defeat. Already, evidence on the large-scale cheating have surfaced: ballots being soaked in water, tampered ballot boxes, etc. This is just for Camarines Sur. Marcos has also asked the PET to do a manual recount for Iloilo and Negros Oriental. With her narrow margin of 263,000 votes — a really thin hairline difference — Leni could find herself in the loser’s box once the PET is done with these three provinces.

There is a lesson here: cheating does not work. As one friend remarked on Facebook: “Bad karma is real”. Leni is slowly being tortured by karma.

Game over for Robredo: cheating backfires

The nullification of an estimated 5,000 votes for Leni Robredo after these were discovered to have been shaded well below the 50% threshold set by the Comelec in 2010 has sent her camp into panic. Her lawyers have asked the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to allow ballots shaded only 25% of the oval beside her name as valid votes. The PET, however, denied her motion. There is no Comelec Resolution that allows the counting of votes with only 25% shading, the PET ruled.

Still trying to play victim of injustice, Robredo has issued a statement asking the PET to “play fair” even as she filed a motion for reconsideration on its ruling Thursday. (April 19, 2018) She insisted that the PET allow shading of the oval beside her name to be counted in her favor. This is an exercise in futility. As the PET pointed out, the Random Manual Audit Guidelines and Report submitted by the Comelec cannot substitute for the provisions of Comelec Resolution No. 8804 promulgated on March 22, 2010 that set the threshold at 50% shading.Leni motion for reconsideration

What the Comelec being relied upon by Robredo to back her claim — Minute Resolution No. 16-600 — is a tell-tale sign of the post-election cheating that former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista put into motion to cover the tracks of the irregularities that propelled her to a hairline victory over former Senator Bongbong Marcos.

Instead of helping her, the evidence that Robredo is now presenting even serves as a rusty anchor that will pull her down to the bottom of the sea. It is game over for the Liberal Party cheating machinery. The nullification of the 5,000 votes for Robredo is a significant shift in the tide. Add to that the glaring evidence of tampering with the ballot boxes and rendering the ballots useless for purposes of manual recount by soaking them in water.

The come-from-behind “victory” of Robredo defied all logic. Indeed, as in almost all elections, especially for those conducted electronically, the trends on who will emerge the winner is set after 2 or 3 hours. Marcos had already led by over 1 million when all of a sudden this was reversed. At the blink of the eye, Robredo won by 263,000 votes. Only cheating could have made that possible.

Robredo’s lie exposed: There is no Comelec resolution allowing 25% shading

Where on earth did Leni Robredo get the idea that 25% shading of the oval constitutes a valid vote?

Robredo, through her lawyers, appealed to the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to reconsider its ruling to annul votes counted for her if the shading on the oval across her name failed to meet the 50% threshold, which was set by Comelec itself for the May 10, 2010 elections through Resolution No. 8804 promulgated on March 22, 2010.

Did the Comelec ever entertain the idea of partial shading below 50%? In Resolution No. 10113 promulgated on May 3, 2016, the Comelec stated expressly that: “The intent of the voters is expressing by fully shading the oval beside the name of the candidate. This is consistent with the instruction provided on the face of the ballot on how to vote.” The photo below shows particular section on the appreciation of ballots:

 

Comelec Resolution Shading Ballots

There is no Comelec Resolution or guideline allowing 25% shading as valid vote. This is what Comelec Resolution No. 10113 promulgated on May 3, 2016 states.

The PET rightly turned down the motion of Robredo to reduce the threshold of the shading to 25%. An estimated 5,000 votes in favor of Robredo have been nullified during the first two weeks of the manual recount as a result of the PET’s ruling that the threshold level should be 50% as stipulated in Resolution No. 8804 dated March 22, 2010 (See RULE 15, Section 6, paragraph “l” shown below).

Screenshot 2018-04-19 14.36.44

Robredo’s lawyer anchor their claim that Comelec allowed a 25% threshold of shading in Minute Resolution No. 16-600 adopted by the Comelec En Banc on September 6, 2016, or four months after the conduct of the elections. What does this resolution say? This resolution was adopted AFTER Senator Bongbong Marcos had already filed his Electoral Protest at this time based on massive cheating. What it did was “adopt and confirm” the memorandum dated September 6, 2016 — submitted on the same day — by Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia, Oversight Commissioner for the Random Manual Audit. It had no force of law.

Letter to PET

And it’s worthwhile examining this memorandum of Commissioner Guia submitted on September 6, 2016, and subsequently adopted and confirmed by the Commission En Banc. Commissioner Guia acknowledged that Comelec guidelines require that voters shade the oval FULLY, but added that the system was designed to read oval shading of “about 25%” as a valid vote. What is the basis of this? It was Smartmatic that did this without authority from the Comelec on Guia’s flimsy excuse that this guaranteed the right to suffrage of voters is not impaired.

Question: Can Smartmatic override the law? Apparently no, which is the reason why the Supreme Court rejected Robredo’s motion to reconsider those votes that were nullified for failure to meet the 50% threshold.

Now these documents deserve deeper investigation. Was this part of the grand cheating scheme of the Liberal Party as carried out by then Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista? For me, it is. We have to keep in mind the elections were over and done, and all that remained to be done was a manual recount of the ballots. Bautista changed the rules of the game after the final horn had sounded, obviously to make sure insufficiently shaded ballots for Robredo would be counted in her favor.