Palace: Comelec critics must present evidence

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday urged critics of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to show proof of election irregularities rather than make generalized accusations that “hocus pocus” was being committed to slow down the transmission of votes.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also said it is baseless to accuse the administration of having a hand in the delay of vote tallying to favor its candidates.

“There is no truth to what they are saying. I don’t know why we are being blamed for that. They know that the administration is not the one running the Comelec. It’s independent… I don’t know if they want to just talk about it but there is no truth to such accusations and they have not showed any evidence to support their allegations,” Valte said over radio dzRB.

But the Palace is not taking up the cudgels for the Comelec as the poll body draws flak for the slow tabulation of votes and for the partial proclamation of winning senatorial candidates.

When the Comelec, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), proclaimed six senators-elect on Thursday and three on Friday, critics led by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the poll body was breaching its own canvass rules laid down last May 6 and that they could not see the logic for the rush in proclamation.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said he would resign if indeed they made a mistake in proclaiming the nine senatorial candidates.

When Valte was asked if President Aquino would again stop Brillantes from resigning – like he did when the poll chief threatened to resign following the Supreme Court’s rejection of the poll body’s moves – she said they had not yet discussed the matter with the Chief Executive.

As to statements from election watchdogs that the Comelec failed to meet the standards for transparency and accountability and that the elections were marred by massive vote buying, Valte said it would be up to the poll body to answer the charges and these issues should not be a reason for the President to be distracted. She said the administration is focused on what must be done, “moving forward.”

‘Brillantes may be held liable’

Brillantes may also be held liable for the problems encountered in the elections.

University of the Philippines College of Law professor Harry Roque said yesterday that they might file a case against Brillantes to make him accountable.

“We are studying his liabilities,” said Roque, one of the lawyers who filed a case against the Philippines before the United Nations over the alleged irregularities in the country’s automated election system.

Roque told The STAR that the Comelec, led by Brillantes, failed to adhere to some provisions mandated by law. He cited the lack of a source code review prior to the elections and the lack of a digital signature to ensure the integrity of the votes.

The lawyer also cited problems encountered in various precincts involving hundreds of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

“Comelec said only 200 PCOS machines malfunctioned, but other reports said more than 1,000 had problems,” Roque said. “Makabayan even claimed that more 18,000 PCOS machines malfunctioned.”

“It seems that Comelec now functions as defense counsel of Smartmatic,” he added, referring to the supplier of the PCOS machines.

Roque also slammed Comelec’s decision to proclaim some winning senatorial candidates without releasing the vote count, saying Filipinos are at a loss on the reasons behind the proclamation.

“We don’t know their basis of proclaiming the winners,” he said, adding that the National Board of Canvassers should have released the number of votes of those proclaimed.

Roque added they would also file a manifestation before the UN Human Rights Council to inform the international body of the violations made by Comelec in last Monday’s elections. They would pursue the case to ensure that the PCOS machines will not be reused in 2016, he said.

He said Smartmatic failed to upgrade the PCOS machines even after the discovery of glitches and problems encountered in the 2010 presidential elections, and also noted the transmission problems delaying the counting of votes.

Brillantes to sue critics next week?

Poll watchdog Automated Election System (AES) Watch also criticized the Comelec, saying the elections this year turned from “bad to worse.”

The AES Watch said by “committing more errors than those recorded in 2010, by making arbitrary and highly irregular decisions during canvassing, and proclaiming presumed winning candidates prematurely, the Comelec” has turned the elections into a “technology and political disaster.”

Brillantes refused to comment on AES’ allegation, but he hinted that he would take his critics to court.

“I won’t make any comment. I will be coming officially with a statement regarding AES (Watch) later. Anytime next week, I’m going to show conspiracy on the art of some people in AES,” Brillantes said.

“Go ahead. Let’s file cases against each other. In the end, the people are still the boss,” said Roque in response to Brillantes’ pronouncement he would file cases against his critics.

PPCRV: It’s up to Comelec to proclaim remaining Senate bets

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said it is up to the Comelec to make the decision on the proclamation of the remaining winning senatorial candidates since they have all the figures.

Former ambassador Henrietta de Villa, PPCRV chair, said the Comelec have both the electronically transmitted results and the manually uploaded figures, and is in the best position to decide on the proclamation.

“It depends on their figures. We can’t judge... they have both the automated results and the manually encoded results,” De Villa told The STAR.

De Villa also said the PPCRV is continuing its parallel unofficial manual count while the Comelec has suspended release of the electronically transmitted results on their transparency server pending the proclamation of all 12 winning senatorial candidates.

As of 4:10 p.m. yesterday, the PPCRV had received 37 percent or almost 29,000 of the 78,166 election returns (ERs), and was waiting for its logistics provider Air21 and its affiliate Mail&More to deliver 62.94 percent or more than 49,000 more ERs for their ongoing manual count.

De Villa said she has asked Air21 to prioritize the delivery of the unsent ERs to enable the PPCRV to speed up their manual count. Air21 is providing its services to PPCRV pro bono.

“Actually, all we have here, we all begged for,“ De Villa said, referring to the computers and other equipment, fixtures and furniture at the PPCRV-KBP 2013 election count at the Pope Pius XII Center in Manila.

Honasan leading Gordon

It seems that re-electionist Sen. Gregorio Honasan will not leave the Senate yet as he is leading his closest rival, former senator Richard Gordon, for the 12th slot in the senatorial race.

According to the latest partial official tally of the Comelec, Honasan had 13,019,299 votes against Gordon’s 12,324,291 votes, or a difference of around 695,000 votes.

Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar was at 10th place with 13,625,351 votes, while San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito was in 11th place with 13,494,702 votes.

These votes came from 128 certificates of canvass (CoCs) that have been canvassed by the NBOC.

Based on the CoCs, 39,664,621 “actually voted” from the 52,695,140 registered voters in this year’s midterm polls.

The NBOC will canvass 304 CoCs, 106 of them are local, including one for the local absentee voting, and 198 for overseas absentee voting.

Brillantes said only the CoC from Lanao del Norte has not been canvassed yet by the Comelec. The poll body is looking at the possibility of holding a special election in an area there. – With Janvic Mateo, Sheila Crisostomo, Rainer Allan Ronda

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