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PNP accepts Cotabato City police explanation on torn ballots

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP accepts Cotabato City police explanation on torn ballots
This video grab shows police personnel in Cotabato City tearing shaded ballots on May 9, 2022.
Video grab from Twitter user @omironic

MANILA, Philippines —  The Philippine National Police said it 'fact-checked' videos showing police personnel tearing up used ballots and found the explanation of local cops 'satisfactory' even as the investigation into the incident continues.

In a statement, Police Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao, acting officer in charge of the PNP said that reports from Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region found that the viral videos were taken at the Datu Ayunan Elementary School, MB Kalanganan, Cotabato City where PNP personnel served as members of the Special Electoral Board. 

"We have 'fact-checked' (sic.) video footages circulating on the internet wherein police officers were shown tearing some election forms," Danao said. 

He was also careful to "caution the public to be circumspect in dealing with information from unverified sources."

"We wish to reiterate our advice to the public to be wary of disinformation circulating in social media especially during this election period."

He added that Police Col. Rommel Javier, Cotabato City police chief, "has satisfactorily explained" that after the cut-off time at about 7 p.m. on Monday, the PNP Board of Election Inspectors members were mandated to tear up the unused blank Official Ballots Sheets as per COMELEC Omnibus Election Code. 

The PNP was careful to point out that the personnel's designation as SBEI for Clustered Precincts Number 69 (Precinct  Numbers 0215A, 0215B, 0215C & 0216A) was  authorized by Nasroding Mustapha, Cotabato City election officer. 

Article 17 of Section 204 entitled Disposition of unused ballots at the close of the voting hours reads: "The chairman of the board of election inspectors shall prepare a list showing the number of unused ballots together with the serial numbers. This list shall be signed by all the members of the board of election inspectors, after which all the unused ballots shall be torn halfway in the presence of the members of the board of election inspectors."

"It was further reported that the said tearing was witnessed by Mr. Arfaj-Erven P. Ahmad, the Designated Election Supervisor Officer and Watchers from parties of OneCotabato and [United Bangsamoro Justice Party]," Danao said. 

"We hope this clarification and verified information puts this matter to rest and further enlightened the public of the election rules and procedures," the statement also read. 

To recall, the Comelec backed the police officers there, saying that they likely misunderstood the instruction to tear unused ballots. In a press conference Wednesday, Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said that the spoiled ballots probably ended up in a pile of unused ones. 

Asked why some ballots in the videos had circles shaded, Police Brig. Gen. Roderick Alba, chief of the PNP public information office said: "This incident is presently being investigated by PRO BAR [and] we will be hearing updates from them." 

2022 ELECTIONS

COTABATO CITY

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE

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