Protests over poll glitches spread to the provinces
LEGAZPI CITY — The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in Albay and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections have called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct an independent and transparent audit following the vote-counting machine (VCM) glitches that caused voters to doubt the integrity of the midterm election results.
“We will ask the Comelec to answer several election issues and complaints that need to be addressed in the spirit of transparency,” said PPCRV director Fr. Rex Arjona.
The PPCRV will also ask the poll body to conduct a random manual audit in 700 voting precincts to test the integrity of the election results under the computerized voting system.
Arjona said they had at least documented several elections concerns, which include VCM malfunctions all over the country, questionable integrity of the replaced SD cards and widespread harassment and vote-buying.
Asked for details, Arjona said the first issue was that out of the 1,218 VCMs dispatched in various voting precincts in Albay alone, 20 percent or 245 VCMs malfunctioned and there was a six-hour gap in the transmission of election results from the different voting centers to the towns’ or cities’ Board of Election inspectors.
“Second, the Comelec has to explain whether the replacement of SD cards or their reconfigurement were indeed tested and sealed. Third, voters complained about the inclusion of some names of senatorial candidates that were not shaded in their ballots but appeared in their voters’ receipt,” he said.
In the City of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Comelec’s office at the provincial capitol at around 10 a.m. on Thursday.
One of the placards they carried read “Nanalo pero di binoto” (Won but was not voted), alluding to some winning candidates.
The protesters complained that their votes were not counted, and there was no transparency.
In Naga City, Camarines Sur, youth groups gathered late Wednesday afternoon to denounce the alleged irregularities.
Members of Gabriela Youth, Jovenes Anakbayan and students from Ateneo de Naga University were among those who trooped to the city’s Plaza Rizal.
Their banners carried the same message: “Defend Democracy”; “Don’t touch our SD cards”; and “No to electoral sabotage and fraud.”
Some Bicol Otso Diretso volunteers also joined the protest in Naga City.
Lawyer Ricky Tomotorgo, an Otso Diretso volunteer, said they plan to organize massive protests throughout Bicol region to denounce the alleged irregularities.
“Bigger in the sense that we intend to mobilize other sectors, particularly the Church or religious sector, academe, professionals, etc., to join us in this fight against electoral manipulations and cheating,” he said.
By Friday, 70 militants from various sectors conducted simultaneous rallies at Legazpi City’s Pinaglabanan Monument and Naga City’s Plaza Rizal to call for transparency in the election results.
Successful despite glitches
Despite the doubts expressed against the integrity and validity of the election results, Neil Canicula, acting Comelec Albay election supervisor, said the conduct of May 13 polls was still considered successful despite the glitches.
He admitted, however, that there were 159 defective SD cards that caused delay in the canvassing of votes in clustered precincts in Albay alone.
“It is still a success despite glitches in the vote-counting machine. It did not disenfranchise the voters because they were able to cast votes,” he said.—WITH REPORTS FROM REY ANTHONY OSTRIA
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