By Paolo Romero | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — The endorsement of some influential groups of more than 12 senatorial candidates could have led to “overvotes” of over a million in the May 13 elections that were invalidated, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said yesterday.
Pimentel, chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES), said the reported 1.17 million overvotes in the just concluded polls would be one of the issues to be tackled when the panel conducts an inquiry on June 4.
“There’s an issue on the overvotes because they’re considered spoiled. If there were overvotes for senatorial candidates, what happens to the vote for other positions? They should not be affected,” Pimentel told radio station dzBB.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering proclaiming six of the winning senatorial candidates within the week.
Frances Arabe, Comelec - Education and Information Division (EID) assistant director, said the seven-member poll body is considering the partial proclamation as they await the arrival of some certificates of canvass (COCs).
“If we can do partial proclamation, then we will do partial,” Arabe disclosed.
He said the Comelec is still deliberating on whether to hold a partial or full proclamation.
But the decision really depends on the arrival of the COCs, Arabe stressed.
In the quick count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) yesterday, Pimentel climbed from 11th to 10th place with 14,548,465 votes, overtaking former senator Ramon Revilla Jr. who had 14,546,314 votes.
As of 11:09 a.m. with votes from 86,319 of the total of 87,540 clustered precincts or 98.6 percent already tallied, reelectionist Sen. JV Ejercito remained in 13th place with just over 200,000 votes behind the 12th placer, reelectionist Sen. Nancy Binay.
There are 1.4 percent of the total votes still to be counted, which represents more than 500,000 votes assuming a 75 percent voter turnout in the midterm polls last May 13.
This means it remained statistically probable for Ejercito to overtake Binay, Revilla or even Pimentel.
Reelectionist Sen. Cynthia Villar is still on top of the list with 25,116,310.
Former special assistant to the president Christopher Go remained strong in third place with 20,453,347 followed by Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano in fourth with 19,632,440 and former national police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in fifth place with 18,802,305 votes.
Reelectionist Sen. Sonny Angara, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino also remained in the Top 12 in 6th, 8th and ninth places, respectively, with 18,041,634, 15,729,192 and 15,368,023 votes.
Two more candidates from other parties – reelectionist Sen. Grace Poe and returning senator Lito Lapid - placed second and seventh, respectively, with 21,911,481 and 16,880,206 votes.
Despite the tight race in the last three spots in the Magic 12, the candidates of the Hugpong Ng Pagbabago (HNP) regional party of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio continued to dominate the senatorial race based on the PPCRV tally.
None of the eight opposition bets from the Otso Diretso slate made it to the winning circle. Reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino obtained the highest rank among them in 14th place with 14,080,499 votes.
Pimentel, for his part, said the Senate panel will try to find out if Duterte-Carpio’s HNP, which endorsed 13 senatorial candidates, and the religious group El Shaddai, which supported 14 bets, may have contributed to the overvotes.
“No matter how much you remind them (voters) that you only need to vote for 12 (senatorial candidates), I’m sure that reminder had not reached everyone,” he said.
Pimentel said these voters may have chosen those they wanted based on the endorsements.
They later realized their mistakes when their ballots they inserted in the vote counting machines (VCMs) discarded their votes, he added.
Pimentel said the congressional inquiry will primarily look into the glitches that marred some of the voting in many polling precincts as well as the seven-hour delay in the transmission of election returns on Monday night.
The panel, co-chaired by CIBAC party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, will also investigate the thousands of defective SD cards, which were tagged as the main culprit of the glitches.
The defective SD cards were reportedly supplied by S1-Silicon Valley company.
Pimentel lamented the glitches still came despite assurances from Comelec officials and its over P10- billion budget for the polls alone.
Vice President Leni Robredo said Comelec should explain the glitches that hit the May 13 elections to remove doubts on the credibility of the polls.
“The Comelec should be transparent in its report. They should come up with a good explanation because if not doubts on the credibility of the recent elections would always be there,” Robredo said.
The Vice President said some groups are pushing for the manual audit of the defective SD cards and VCMs.
“Even if they say all were aboveboard, that nothing happened, there’s still interruption (in the transmittal of votes),” she said. “It’s hard to move on if we have lots of questions in our minds.”
Robredo said there were many reported glitches in last week’s elections despite the poll body’s preparations.
“This was the fourth time we held automated elections, the problems committed should have been declining,” she said. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Edu Punay, Helen Flores