The Commission on Elections (Comelec) proclaimed the top six winners of the senatorial race Thursday night, three days after the frustratingly slow count of the vote in what was supposed to be automated elections started.
Proclaimed winners were Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Nancy Binay and Juan Edgardo Angara, whose rankings in the official and unofficial tallies had been virtually unchanged since the tabulation by the national board of canvassers (NBOC) began.
As of Thursday night, only 72 of the 304 certificates of canvass (COCs) had been officially accepted and tabulated by the NBOC at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
The 72 COCs represent 13,384,981 of the country’s 52 million registered voters.
The NBOC failed to proclaim all the 12 candidates within 48 hours after elections, as it had targeted.
Five of the six winners belong to the administration-backed Team PNoy.
The lone winner from the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) proclaimed winner was Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The six winners will begin their six-year terms on June 30.
The Comelec gave the winners their certificates of proclamation in alphabetical order and not by the number of votes they received.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the next senators-elect would be proclaimed “in the next few days.”
Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal described Thursday night’s proclamation as “defective,” as the votes garnered by the winners were not announced, thus their proclamation had “no basis.”
“All certificates of proclamation always proclaim the number of votes (received) by the candidates. Here, the question is how were they elected? There is no basis. It was only by the virtue of the power vested [in] the Comelec,” Macalintal said.
“This is the first time that a certificate of no votes was the basis of proclaiming alleged winners in the senatorial race,” he added.
Poe drew the loudest cheers from the crowd as she was officially named senator-elect. Accompanied by her mother, actress Susan Roces, she dedicated her victory to her father, the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., who lost a presidential run in 2004.
“I wish my father were here. But this is for him… I pray that he gives me inspiration to help me continue his work in helping the people who need it,” she said.
Escudero brought along a scene-stealer: his girlfriend, actress Heart Evangelista. A number of election watchers sought out Evangelista for a picture with her.
“Now I can lie down and will be able to sleep,” Escudero told reporters when asked how he was doing.
Legarda said she didn’t mind being No. 2 despite finishing at the top in her two previous senatorial runs, in 1998 and 2007.
“It feels like the first time, like in 1998. I have a grateful heart. I’m thankful I have been given another opportunity to serve. I was No. 1 in 1998, No. 1 in 2007; now, I’m No. 2,” she told reporters.
Cayetano came late, arriving just as his name was called. His sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano, came ahead of him.
Binay was a no-show.
Her absence was not officially explained, although speculations were rife that her absence was in keeping with the electoral protest of UNA.
UNA on Thursday asked the Comelec to suspend the proclamation of winners, questioning the integrity of the results of the election.
With only three of its senatorial candidates winning the election, the opposition coalition alleged that a Smartmatic representative manipulated the tape archive file in the transparency server room at the headquarters of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said the NBOC had canvassed only 25 percent of the votes which, he claimed, would be insufficient to determine the rightful winners at this stage of the count.
“If it’s only 25 percent so far, why proclaim at all?” Tiangco said at a news conference, claiming that he obtained the figure from a Comelec source.
But “more worrisome” for UNA, he said, was the alleged “manipulation by Smartmatic personnel of election data received by the transparency server.”
Tiangco said the UNA motion was not self-serving because it would affect its candidates—Binay, JV Ejercito and Gringo Honasan—who were in the Top 12 as of Thursday.
But the Comelec, sitting as the NBOC, denied UNA’s motion and proceeded to proclaim the first six winners.
The proclamation went through after Malacañang, getting impatient about the slow count, weighed in and prodded the Comelec to proclaim the winning senatorial candidates “as soon as possible.”
The Comelec blamed the slowness of the canvassing on bad telecommunications signals in many parts of the country but glitches on the ballot scanners and corrupted compact flash (CF) cards were later pinpointed as causes of the delay.
In denying UNA’s motion, the NBOC said that contrary to the coalition’s claim, the maintenance procedure was “authorized” and was done by “authorized Smartmatic personnel to secure that the servers are properly functioning.”
“There is nothing abnormal, anomalous or irregular with the said procedure,” the NBOC said.
It added that even UNA’s witness, Gadburt Mercado admitted that “the deleted filed (sic) turned out to be a ‘Regional File’ which, as agreed upon by all the information technology consultants involved, was not really necessary to determine the actual number of votes cast.”
The NBOC emphasized that the bases of the canvass of national votes and the proclamation of the winning senatorial candidates are the provincial or city certificates of canvass (COCs) “and not the election returns, which are electronically transmitted straight from the PCOS machines to the Transparency and the Comelec central servers.”
The NBOC said that results transmitted in the transparency and Comelec central servers are unofficial, which it said UNA “seemingly confused” with the official results that would be based on the COCs generated “through a ladderized system of electronic transmission.”
The ladderized system involves the transmission of official results from the municipal or city board of canvassers to the provincial board of canvassers and, ultimately, the NBOC.
“The ladder through which official results are transmitted is separate and independent from those used by the transparency and the Comelec central servers, that, even in case of breach of the said servers, the integrity of the server of the official results remain secure,” the NBOC said.
The NBOC also said that there was no delay in the transmission of election results.
“The current rate of transmission to the NBOC is normal and regular, and even considerably faster than the 2010 elections, which took the 2010 NBOC two days to start the canvassing and five days to proclaim the first set of winners,” the NBOC said.
The NBOC also noted that UNA based its allegations on mere hearsay, “like newspaper accounts and unfounded suspicions, and the lack of knowledge of the system it attempts to discredit.”
The NBOC held a brief proceeding with the lawyers of UNA, the Liberal Party (LP) and counsel for individual senatorial candidates.
The LP and lawyers for Poe and reelectionists Escudero, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Cayetano opposed UNA’s motion.—With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Christian V. Esguerra, PDI; and Tetch Torres-Tupas, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted: 6:43 pm | Thursday, May 16th, 2013