Miriam: Guard our votes

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Wearing her trademark flaming red dress, presidential candidate Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago arrived at the La Vista Clubhouse in Quezon City at around 7 a.m. to cast her vote at Precinct 4257-A.

Accompanying her were husband Narciso and daughter Mallory.

No more than a dozen voters were at the polling precinct so there were no queues.

The vote counting machines functioned smoothly to accept the ballot of Santiago.

In an interview with reporters afterwards, Santiago said she found the voting process to be satisfactory.

“It was very easy,” she said.

“They were very helpful,” she added, referring to voting personnel at the precinct.

However, Santiago said the Comelec personnel at the precinct used only a cardboard box as container for the ballots or the voter receipt printouts.

“It can very easily be defaced or damaged or substituted,” she said.

Santiago said she would monitor the rest of the day’s voting and counting nationwide from her home in La Vista subdivision. 

She called on voters to be vigilant when they go to the polling precincts and when the Comelec subsequently counts the votes. 

“Guard our votes because some fear that they won’t win if they don’t cheat,” she said in Filipino.

“In good faith we will go to the precinct. It’s up to the government. But if you have time, you stay at the  precinct to help the poll watchers. The role of poll watchers is important now.” 

In Batac, Ilocos Norte, vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. voted yesterday at his precinct at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School in Barangay Valdez.

He is confident of winning the election and facing the biggest challenge in his political career.

“I am excited, I’m feeling that by all indications we will be successful today,” he said.

Marcos spoke to reporters who waited for his arrival shortly past 6 a.m.

He along with his mother, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, his sister Irene Araneta and other members of the Marcos family are registered voters of Barangay Lacub, Precinct No. 36-A.

Marcos,  No. 74 in the voter’s list, was the fifth voter to enter the polling precinct. 

He completed voting after a few minutes and when the ballot was inserted into the counting machine, it was processed without a hitch.

“The voter receipt reflected all the candidates that I voted for,” he said.

After voting, Marcos proceeded to the nearby Immaculate Conception Church, where he joined his mother and sister Irene for a short prayer.

“With the sentiment of vox populi, vox dei, I just ask that God’s will be done because after all, that’s what an election should be about,” he said when asked what he prayed for. 

Marcos then proceeded to the family ancestral  mansion for breakfast with his mother.

Joining them later was his wife, Louise Araneta- Marcos, his eldest son Sandro – who voted separately in Laoag City – and his sisters Irene and Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos.

Marcos said some problems are expected  to occur since a huge number of voters and precincts are involved, but he hopes that the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic have put in place measures to immediately address all kinds of  problems.

Marcos said he remains confident he would win despite the fact that his camp continues to receive reports of massive vote-buying.

He advised voters to take the money but vote for their candidates of choice.

Marcos flew back to Manila to monitor the conduct of the elections and the counting of votes in his campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong.

“We have our own internal quick count that we have done in cooperation with several quick count networks,” he said.

“We have actually several quick counts in my headquarters alone. So that’s what we’ll be monitoring.” 

Marcos said his team will monitor the conduct of the elections through TV and radio broadcasts, as well as posts in social media.

“The reason we invited you (is) for you (to) see that we have our own internal quick count so we will immediately see the results and we can compare them to the Comelec official results,” he said at a media briefing.

Lawyer Amor Amorado, head of the quick count center, who was also present during the briefing, said raw data from election returns would be given to the quick count center by people from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

“We have people in the PPCRV who are connected with the Transparency Server,” he said.

Amorado said they also have volunteers in different parts of the Philippines who will give them real time election results.

“We have the legal and non-legal group,” he said.

“The non-legal is basically made up of call center agents who will get real time election results as they are transmitted from the field, while the legal group is composed of lawyers who will receive reports from all our 200 lawyers nationwide on the provincial canvassing, as well as in highly urbanized and independent component cities.”   

The center is open 24/7 and will receive reports until they have gathered all pertinent data, Amorado said.

Marcos expressed alarm over the numerous reports on malfunctioning vote counting machines in many parts of the country.

He has already instructed his team to investigate the breakdown of many VCMs, he added.

Amorado said the technical glitches could pave the way for cheating.

“As part of protocol, the BEIs (Board of Elections Inspectors) let voters shade the ballots while waiting for the machines and the BEIs will just be the ones to feed the ballots in the VCMs but this is where the danger lies because new machines can be pre-programmed already and so we have to call on all watchers from all parties to watch those replacement machines and watch out for those feeding the ballots because there, we might have serious problems,” he said.

Marcos also took particular notice of voters having the same identification number, but refused to give more details pending their investigation.

“This is a particular problem we are beginning to see, the identical ID of different voters,” he said. “We are going to get more details on this and talk to the people complaining.”   – With Perseus Echeminada

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