The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday began returning more than 1,000 vote-counting machines (VCM) to its supplier despite opposition from former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. whose poll protest was based partly on allegations that the election results had been manipulated with the use of VCMs. In an urgent manifestation and motion on Oct. 21, Marcos asked the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to “prohibit the poll body from releasing the subject VCMs” after the Comelec informed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno it plans to return the machines to Smartmatic-TIM. The Marcos camp also asked the PET to determine whether these VCMs were used in the vice presidential race, which the former senator lost by about 260,000 votes to Leni Robredo, the Liberal Party candidate. On June 29, Marcos filed his electoral protest and asked the PET to stop Robredo’s inauguration. He said votes that were counted for Robredo were fraudulent, contesting the results in 39,221 clustered precincts in 25 provinces and five cities.
He alleged that Smartmatic introduced a new hash code (or a new script/program) into the transparency server, which he said had triggered unauthorized changes in the vote count.
In August, the PET issued a precautionary protective order (PPO) directing the Comelec to preserve all election materials and paraphernalia pending the resolution of the proceedings.
Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim has informed Sereno, who heads the PET, that the machines they planned to return “were not actually deployed and/or used during said elections [and therefore were] not within the scope of the [PPO].” He said these machines had been put on standby as replacement VCMs for those that break down on election day.
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