Manila, Philippines – The decision of the joint national canvassing committee to turn down a motion by Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas II to review election returns (ERs) and determine the veracity of the unusually high three million null votes is final, Speaker Prospero Nograles said on Thursday.
But former Education Secretary Florencio Abad disclosed that they have evidence to show that there is indeed reason to look into the ERs to determine the truth about the three million null votes for the vice presidential post.
This developed as a defective central canvassing system (CCS) threatened on Thursday to delay the completion of the tabulation of returns reflected in the remaining 71 certificates of canvass.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said they expect the 30 provincial and city CoCs and 41 CoCs from overseas absentee voting centers to be canvassed last night to pave the way for the proclamation of winning presidential and vice presidential candidates on Monday.
However, the failure of the CCS to read the statement of votes from Davao City threatened to derail the plans.
Commission on Election Executive Director Jose Tolentino said the malfunctioning CCS will have to be sent to the Smartmatic-TIM plan in Cabuyao to be fixed.
Lawmakers who are members of the canvassing panel said this can delay the completion of the canvassing.
Lawyers for Sen. Roxas appeared adamant to the advice of the canvassing panel to bring their protest on the null votes before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
In supporting the call to review the questionable ERs, Abad cited the case of the municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao which was the first to electronically transmit the results of the elections on May 10, sending the tally of its votes as early as one hour even before the voting closed at 7 in the evening
There were 464 registered voters in the clustered precincts covered by the PCOS machine. Of this, 463 voted for the same candidate for vice president.
There were no null votes.
This is just one of the incidents why the Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota vote protection volunteer group has been pressing for an exhaustive look into the 2.6 million null votes and more than 300,000 other votes for the vice presidential race that face nullification if the Joint Canvassing Committee continues to stonewall appeals to include them in its joint canvass of the presidential and vice presidential elections, Abad said.
Abad said a study conducted by IT experts showed that between 5 p.m. and 5:59 p.m. of May 10, before election precincts closed at 7 p.m., ARMM had transmitted 1,064 votes for vice president – all from Maguindanao. By midnight, ARMM had transmitted 393,196 votes for vice president, which includes 196,626 votes from Maguindanao and 72,005 votes from Lanao del Sur.
The early transmissions, he said, was surprising, especially following concerns prior to the election of possible transmission problems in the ARMM.
Meanwhile, in Regions 6 and 7 where Roxas won overwhelmingly over other VP bets, there are more than 500,000 “null votes”. If 50 to 60 percent of these votes are for Roxas, which is the voting trend in the two regions, this would be equivalent to about 250,000 to 300,000 votes.
In reaction, the camp of leading vice presidential candidate Jejomar C. Binay asked Roxas to file the appropriate case if he has proof of irregularities in the May 10 election.
Otherwise, the Liberal Party (LP) is merely engaging in a “desperate propaganda drive” that will not alter the outcome of the canvassing being conducted by Congress, said lawyer JV Bautista, who acts as the spokesman of Binay.
Nograles said the joint panel of canvassers is not in a position to act on the complaint, saying that the controversy should be raised before the PET, in case Roxas loses the vice presidential race.
“The public controversy regarding the number of “null votes” which were not read by the PCOS machine allegedly numbering more than a million votes for the president and an allegedly whooping 2.6 million for vice president won’t be considered by the joint canvass committee,” Nograles explained.
He added: “This issue is beyond the function fo the joint congressional canvass body. This is an issue that is proper in an “election protest” in the proper venue where votes can be recounted swiftly by merely cross checking the actual ballots cast and the electronic image and the pictures of the ballots that entered the PCOS machine.”
Nograles said the PET is not expected to spend much time in determining the truth behind the null votes.
“We also expect protests to be resolved just as fast as the elections were conducted and the winners proclaimed. That’s the automation that we approved and we have implemented under the 14th Congress,” Nograles said.
The joint canvassing panel chaired by Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has finished tabulating the results reflected in 207 of 278 CoCs.
Zubiri said majority of the 40 of the CoCs, all coming from the OAV’s, reflect no votes. These were sent from countries in Europe.
The official canvass results as of 2:27 p.m. Thursday: President – Aquino, 12,735,059; Estrada, 8,142,527; Vice President – Binay, 12,208,562; Roxas, 11,736,878.