By Kathleen de Villa | Inquirer.net
The citizen’s arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday said it found physical copies of election returns (ERs) whose vote count did not match the digitally transmitted results, but the poll watchdog stopped short of saying that these indicated irregularities.
The discrepancies in the tabulations involved “one or two votes” for candidates for president, vice president and some senatorial candidates, said Vann dela Cruz, spokesperson for Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
The miniscule numbers will not affect the over 31-million vote lead of former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. over his chief rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Our volunteers found four election returns that do not match with their electronically transmitted counterparts,” Dela Cruz told reporters on Friday.
The ERs with discrepancies in the actual vote count came from Mandaon town, Masbate; Pitogo and Sariaya municipalities in Quezon province; and Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu province.
The conflicting vote counts were found in a batch of ERs the PPCRV was manually validating over a 24-hour period ending at 5 p.m. on Friday against the digitized results sent to the transparency server at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where the poll watchdog established its “command center” for the May 9 elections.
Dela Cruz, who is also PPCRV legal counsel, said they had informed the Comelec about this and was awaiting its explanation.
Asked if such findings indicated signs of election fraud, PPCRV board member William Yu said that “so far there is none.”
“Please be assured that PPCRV will be the first to report any irregularity,” Yu said.
It was the first time that PPCRV has found inconsistencies in the actual vote count.
Dela Cruz said the common errors in the ongoing revalidation of ERs had been due to typographical errors and unreadable figures in the copies.
Call from UP
Faculty members and employees of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila on Friday called on the government to investigate alleged poll irregularities, including online disinformation and defective vote-counting machines (VCM), “that challenge the fairness of the elections.”
Specifically, they wanted an investigation of the handling and delivery of ballots, the “discriminatory” implementation of campaign rules and the “orchestrated dissemination of lies and fake news” that caused confusion among voters, among other things.
“The proper authorities have not made any efforts to investigate any of these irregularities. We call on everyone in the university to be vigilant in fighting for truth,” said a statement signed by 273 “concerned” UP Manila faculty and employees.
It said that testimonies and complaints regarding the breakdown of VCMs, resulting in the delayed casting of votes and “disenfranchisement of many voters,” could not be simply dismissed.
As a consequence, voters were forced to leave the polling stations and were unable to vote, the statement said. It also cited reports of “massive and blatant” vote-buying, poll violence at voting centers and stolen ballot boxes.
86.6-percent match rate
Under the poll automation law, each clustered precinct must send a printed copy of its ER to PPCRV.
There are a total of 107,785 clustered precincts, including hundreds overseas. Part of PPCRV’s tasks is to validate all the ERs.
PPCRV’s copy of the ER is just one of 30 that must be sealed and transmitted to various groups, including Congress, Comelec, the board of canvassers, political parties and the media.
As of Friday afternoon, PPCRV has received at its command center 86.6 percent, or 93,347, of the total 107,785 ERs. It said 77,786 ERs were consistent with the digitized results.
Those that did not match included 339 ERs, which are up for revalidation; nine due to be reviewed in the next batch; and 760 that could not be validated because their digitized counterparts came from faulty VCMs that could no longer transmit data.
PPCRV shut down its command center at UST on Friday and is set to transfer to a smaller venue at Pope Pius XII Center in Manila to continue the manual audit of the remaining 14,438 ERs from other areas in the country and abroad.