By Elizabeth Marcelo | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — Poll watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “to exert all efforts to transmit the unreported election returns (ERs),” saying over one million unaccounted votes are still a game changer in the senatorial standing.
“Comelec municipal and provincial election officers should exert all efforts… to reduce the 2.25 percent untransmitted ERs because the numbers are critical in the senatorial contest where the figures among those in numbers 10 to 14 positions are very close,” Namfrel said in a press statement issued yesterday.
Namfrel said the 2.25 percent or 1,930 untransmitted local ERs translate to 1,043,721 votes, assuming a 75 percent turnout of voters last Monday.
“This number is large enough to reorder the positions in the senatorial race and, most importantly, define without doubt the number 12 or the last slot placer,” Namfrel added.
The margin of votes between the current 10th to the 14th placers in the senatorial race now stands at about 398,000 – well within the 1,043,721 unaccounted votes.
Namfrel derived its 1,043,721 figure by dividing the 61,843,750 total number of registered voters nationwide to the 85,769 total number of clustered precincts, giving an average of 721 voters per clustered precinct.
Namfrel explained that assuming a 75 percent voter turnout rate, there would be an average of 541 votes per ER or per clustered precinct.
“If there are still 1,930 untransmitted ERs with 541 votes per ER, you get a total unreported 1,043,721 votes,” Namfrel said.
The poll watchdog said the delay in the transmission of ERs could be due to the old problems such as the malfunction of vote counting machines (VCMs), secure digital card glitches and other transmission issues.
Based on Namfrel’s records, failed transmission rates were at 9.5 percent of 76,528 ERs in 2010; 24 percent of 78,193 ERs in 2013; and 3.5 percent of 92,506 ERs in 2016.
Namfrel pointed out that while the Comelec has repeatedly stated that the missing ERs were “aggregated” in the final count, the process of aggregation was not open to the public.
“Untransmitted ERs are a perennial problem in the country’s Automated Election System… In this election, however, not only should the 2.25 percent untransmitted rate be reduced to the lowest level possible, but Comelec should also open the aggregation procedure to the political parties, election monitoring bodies and to the general public. Every vote counts,” Namfrel said.
Prepare for 2022
Meanwhile, two of the country’s prominent election lawyers urged yesterday the Comelec to prepare early for the 2022 presidential elections to prevent a repeat of the system glitches experienced last Monday.
Romulo Macalintal and George Garcia made the recommendation at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum in Malate following the poll body’s admission that problematic VCMs tripled this year compared to 2016.
“We can’t afford these glitches in the fifth automated elections, that is a presidential election,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the poll body should also conduct regular testing of the VCMs to ensure that defective machines would be immediately replaced prior to the polls.
“It’s hard to correct any glitches a few days before the elections,” he said.
Macalintal also expressed doubt whether the poll body replaced the defective marking pens, which were discovered a few days before the elections.
“Does the Comelec really have emergency purchase of the pens? Because many still complained that they did not have it,” he said.
The lawyers also revived calls for Congress to amend the Omnibus Election Code to address various issues such as premature campaigning and campaign overspending.
“I urge the incoming Congress to amend the ‘jurrasic’ Omnibus Election Code,” Garcia said.
He said under the Omnibus Election Code, those who are with a political party can spend P3 per voter, while independent candidates can spend P5 per voter.
Garcia said the amount should be increased from P3 to P25 per voter. – With Helen Flores