By Elizabeth Marcelo | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — Amid an uproar over defective vote counting machines (VCMs), the UniTeam camp of presidential aspirant former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has raised concerns over reports of alleged irregularities in known strongholds of Marcos in Northern Luzon.
In a press statement issued yesterday afternoon, the UniTeam claimed that several voters in the towns of Narvacan, Sta. Cruz and Burgos in Ilocos Sur and Tabuk City in Kalinga, were complaining of irregular or defective VCMs, which allegedly credited votes cast for Marcos to archrival Vice President Leni Robredo.
“We are taking note of these complaints but we are confident that the Comelec (Commission on Elections) is ready for any eventualities especially against attempts by some groups to subvert the genuine outcome of this all-important and history-making political exercise,” Marcos’ spokesman and chief of staff Vic Rodriguez said.
Robredo’s camp laughed off the allegations even as it also expressed concern over reports of malfunctioning VCMs and incidents of election violence.
“We have put up election hotlines that anyone can call if they have complaints. We have many lawyers on standby,” she said.
“We need to tell everyone that they have to report and document all things that are outside the norm. The reports all over the country are somewhat concerning,” she added.
“Our advice (to our supporters) is not to be afraid. There are many of us who are working together. We just need to document everything,” she said.
The UniTeam camp cited the case of a certain Raymar Racacho, 50, of Barangay Quinarayan in Narvacan town, who claimed that he voted for Marcos on his official ballot but the vote appearing on the printed election receipt was credited to Robredo.
“This prompted him (Racacho) to report the same to the BEI before formally filing a complaint,” the UniTeam’s press statement read.
The UniTeam said that in Kalinga province, a certain Joseph Pullis and Benny Pa-ut both of Brgy. Lacnog East, Tabuk City, likewise filed formal complaints claiming that they both voted for Marcos but their votes were credited to Robredo.
Following the complaints of supposed irregularities, Marcos’ camp advised the presidential aspirant’s supporters “to be extra-vigilant and report to the proper authorities anything that would negatively affect the results of the elections.”
Marcos’ camp said that based on reports it had received as of 11 a.m., there were about 1,867 VCMs that had encountered various problems in different areas of the country, such as 940 cases of paper jam, 606 incidents of rejected ballots, 158 incidents of failed VCM scanner, 87 cases of failed VCM printers and 76 incidents of VCMs not printing properly.
Marcos cast his vote yesterday at around 7 a.m. at Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School in Barangay Valdez in Batac City, Ilocos Norte.
He did not grant an interview with members of the media waiting outside the polling precinct and instead went straight to Batac Church with his eldest son, Sandro, a congressional candidate for Ilocos Norte First District.
Marcos, the son and namesake of a late dictator who ruled the country for 20 years, had repeatedly claimed that he was cheated during the May 2016 elections when he lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes.
In a unanimous 15-0 vote, however, the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), junked Marcos’ claim of fraud.
Education officials, meanwhile, denied insinuations that the public does not trust teachers as poll workers amid the flurry of reports of voters refusing to entrust to teachers their ballots that got rejected by faulty VCMs.
Department of Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said that voters showing determination to safeguard ballots does not necessarily mean that they do not trust the poll workers.
“I believe our countrymen, the voters merely wanted to see the voting receipts to make sure the machines had correctly read the shaded ballots. We don’t think they don’t trust our poll workers or teachers who make up the electoral board,” he said at a press briefing in Filipino.
“In this election, receipts contain the names of candidates for president, vice president, senator and other officials unlike in the past when receipts showed only the phrase ‘thank you,”’ he explained.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), for its part, has warned against taking pictures of voting receipts or posting the same on social media, saying it was prohibited under Comelec rules.
“Kindly refrain from doing it. You might be facing stiff penalty or prosecution of the Omnibus Election Code,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said at a press conference at Camp Crame. – Janvic Mateo, Emmanuel Tupas, Artemio Dumlao, Romina Cabrera