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Comelec investigating four 'questionable' election returns

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Comelec investigating four 'questionable' election returns
People place their ballots in a counting machine after casting their votes during the presidential election at a polling precinct in Quezon City, suburban Manila on May 9, 2022.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections said Saturday that it is looking into four questionable copies of election returns (ERs) from three provinces, which were earlier flagged by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. 

Earlier, the non-profit group said there were four copies of ERs with discrepancies, which were generated from polling precincts based in Masbate, Quezon and Cebu. 

RELATED: PPCRV chair defends watchdog mandate

ERs contain the vote counts in the national and local polls in a certain precinct, and are printed by vote-counting machines (VCMs).

In a Viber message to reporters, Comelec Commissioner John Rex Laudiangco said that they have relayed the concern to their steering committee and the IT department (ITD). 

"Investigation’s underway. We are awaiting the formal report of the ITD," he said on Saturday.

Laudiangco disclosed the initial assessments of the ERs involved. 

Two cases may have been ERs printed during the final testing and sealing, which happened days before the 2022 polls. 

The third case may have been an error on the part of the electoral board which prematurely closed the voting before all votes were in. "What the EB did, upon realizing their error, is to re-zero the machine, batch feed the ballots, and close and transmit later on," he said. 

Laudiangco added they are also looking into the last case, but said the transmitted ER seems to matches the one which the election officer has. 

However, he stressed that these are just the preliminary assessments and vowed that they will share the final results of the investigation soon. 

Comelec investigating election documents left in Cavite

The poll body is looking into circulating tweets which showed pictures and a video of election documents that were reportedly left out on a vacant lot in Amadeo, Cavite.

Environmentalist Rodne Galicha raised the issue on Friday and said the documents may have come from the Tondo precincts. 

Comelec's Laudiangco said they have reached out to the Regional Election Directors in Region 4A and Metro Manila, the provincial election supervisor of Cavite and the packing and shipping committee. 

"Sumusulong na ang imbestigasyon dito (Investigation is ongoing)," he said on Saturday.

The national and local polls took place on May 9. During the first few hours, around 1,900 VCMs encountered "common issues. Almost half or 940 machines had paper jams, 606 VCMs rejected ballots, 158 had problems with their scanners, 87 of the machines were not printing, and 76 machines had defective printing. 

There have been 16 recorded cases of election-related violence which rocked the countryside on the day of the polls, the Philippine National Police said on the morning of the elections.

The U.S, through state department spokesman Ned Price, said, however that they understand the casting and counting of votes were conducted "in line with international standards and without significant incident", according to a GMA News Online report.

Earlier this week, officials from the Comelec said this year's elections have been "the best so far", citing the "quick and full disclosure of the results to the public" and the generally peaceful situation on election day. — With reports from Kaycee Valmonte

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