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PPCRV clarifies role, says watchdog not meant to conduct random manual audit

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PPCRV clarifies role, says watchdog not meant to conduct random manual audit
PPCRV volunteers count votes in the partial unofficial tally in the Quadricentennial Pavillion, UST, May 11. Bongbong Marcos Jr. leads the polls.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting clarified its role as poll watchdog Sunday evening in response o allegations it was acting as a rubber stamp for the Commission on Elections.

In a Facebook post, PPCRV chair and volunteer Myla Villanueva pointed out that PPCRV compares and contrasts pre-transmission paper election returns with ERs sent electronically to check for any discrepancies in the machines.

She was responding to a certain Freddy Olbés, who supposedly volunteered at the council as an encoder and compared the PPCRV's process to "examining the veracity of an original document by perusing its carbon copy." 

"This is not our mandate. It is our friends at [National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections] and [Legal Network for Truthful Elections] who are actually doing this as we speak," Villanueva wrote to Olbés. "What we do at PPCRV is to check against transmission fraud when ERs go into Cyberspace...We compare pre-transmission ERs to post-transmission ERs. Together with others, it is a [holistic] audit of the process, in any election cycle."

To recall, Olbés in a public post asked why actual ballots are not being audited by PPCRV, saying he volunteered "because of legitimate concerns that this government was not playing on a level playing field."

"I was under the impression that we were going to encode individual ballot receipts from the different precincts that allegedly had been selected randomly throughout the country and arrive at our own totals," Olbés wrote.

"I was surprised and disappointed therefore, to find out that what we were encoding were precinct totals already added up from election returns handed in by the Comelec — the very body whose results we were ostensibly investigating."

"By not demanding a recount of individual ballots instead of figures already totalled by government itself, you have failed to live up to your mandate and done the voters and the country a disservice," he also wrote, addressing Villanueva. 

A separate random manual audit of the 2022 elections led by NAMFREL already began opening ballot boxes Thursday to ensure the accuracy of the automated count of the Comelec's vote counting machines provided by Smartmatic.

According to the PPCRV in an advisory, 66,574 out of 107,785 ERs or 61.7% have already been received by the council. 

Of which, 40,292 are from North or South Luzon, while 10,033 are from Metro Manila, 11,614 are from the Visayas, and 4,635 are from Mindanao. None have yet been received from overseas. 

In her open post, Villanueva pointed out that the PPCRV's efforts were carried out by "mostly parish-based youth volunteers who have given their time and love for free."

"I would request for all, that we take a moment of our forwarding energies to thank our PPCRV volunteers too, who don't know you, but truly served you on election day, despite their limited resources," she said. 

Villanueva added that the PPCRV was going for physical evidence and was "still in full action in precincts all over the country."

"Our volunteers toil all evening long after a long day of assisting you in the hot and humid precincts, to get the 4th copy of the election returns," she said. 

"On foot, on tricycles, on horseback in some cases, they pick up as many of these 4th copies as they possibly can. Because they know that the nations trust depends on it."

Franco Luna with a report from Kaycee Valmonte 

2022 ELECTIONS

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