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Null votes a ‘good case’ for poll protests, solon says

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:40:00 06/02/2010

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Politics, Inquirer Politics

MANILA, Philippines?The millions of null votes for president and vice president in the May 10 elections can be a ?good case? for electoral protests especially in the tightly-contested vice presidential position, lawmakers said.

About 2.6 million and one million votes are considered invalid for vice president and president, respectively, according to the lawyers of Senator Manuel ?Mar? Roxas.

Null votes or stray votes are those not counted by the machine because of either over-shading, under-shading, over-voting or under-voting (or no vote) for a certain position.

But Speaker Prospero Nograles said that null votes could also result when the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines could not read the vote.

?If your votes are not counted, you are technically disenfranchised,? he added in an interview.

Nograles, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III said the number of null votes was ?alarming? and should be looked into.

Nograles said that the null votes may not have much bearing on the presidential race because the apparent winner, Senator Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III, is leading the second placer, former President Joseph Estrada, by close to four million votes based on the June 1 tally of Congress.

But he said the null votes could affect the vice presidential race because Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay is ahead of Senator Manuel Roxas II by only about 300,000 votes.

?That might be a good case for an electoral protest,? Nograles said.

Tañada echoed the position, saying that ?it can make or break the position of vice president. The null votes may be a subject of an electoral protest.?

Lawyers of Binay and Roxas exchanged arguments on Wednesday?s canvassing on the null votes.

Aquilino ?Koko? Pimentel III, Binay?s counsel, said the null votes are non-issue.

?It?s either the voter abstained or made a mistake of shading more than one (name of candidate). Let?s not make an issue out of a non-issue, there?s no disenfranchisement involved . . . .,? Pimentel said.

Richard Solis, Roxas? lawyer, said the 2.6 million null votes for vice president was alarming.

?If indeed there was a technical glitch in how the ballots were read, it would mean a disenfranchisement of five percent of the entire voting population,? he said.

Solis added that in the unofficial tally of both the Comelec and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Binay?s lead over Roxas was only about 800,000.

?Thus, the supposed null votes of 2.6 million if they are properly accounted for would indeed affect the results of the vice president,? he said.

Solis made a motion before the canvassing committee to declare the CoCs with null votes as incomplete and to direct the board of canvassers to present all the election returns for these areas for tabulation.



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