600,000 undervotes for VP questioned

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte oversee the opening of the ballot boxes containing Certificates of Canvass at the House of Representatives. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

3 COCs deferred due to discrepancies

MANILA - Over 600,000 undervotes in the vice-presidential race, as well as discrepancies in 3 certificates of canvass (COCs), were questioned on Wednesday during the first day of work of the committee created by Congress sitting as the National Board of Canvassers for President and Vice-President.

Discrepancies were observed in the COCs for vote-rich Laguna, Ilocos Sur, and Davao del Norte during the canvassing. In keeping with the rules, the canvassing boards of those provinces were summoned to attend Thursday's session to explain the discrepancies.

If the explanations satisfy the panel, the panel may include the COCs in the official tally.

The canvass began an hour later than scheduled. Of the 165 COCs, 45 were canvassed.

Former Commision on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who appeared as lawyer for Vice-President Jejomar Binay, said the speed is faster than in the 2010 presidential canvass.

The running total of the panel's tally sustained trends in the unofficial tallies showing Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the clear frontrunner in the presidential race.

Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Romualdez Marcos, Jr.'s lawyer, George Garcia, said there were around 623,179 undervotes cast for vice-president discovered in the canvassing.

Atty. Romulo Macalintal, lawyer of Rep. Leni Robredo, said this shouldn't be alarming because not all voted for President. Macalintal explained that undervotes are not indication of any irregularity. "Huwag ho kayo matatakot sa sinasabi ng kampo ni Marcos sapagka't talaga nangyayari iyan," he said.

When the session opened, Marcos' legal counsel, former Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, urged the board to proclaim frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the winner of the presidential race, citing the concessions of other candidates.

Dilangalen maintained that canvassing the votes for the president and vice president separately is legal.

But the chair of the panel for the Senate side, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, shot it down, saying that the canvass will proceed on the basis of each certificate of canvass (COC).

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the chair of the House contingent, insisted that only members of the committee and not the lawyers can make such motions.

Gonzales said the canvass will proceed in accordance with rules.

Dilangalen still insisted on the separate canvass, saying there is no prohibition against it.

Gonzales, however, proceeded with the canvass by ordering the generation of the electronically transmitted COCs.

At that point, Gonzales ordered Dilangalen and another lawyer to return to their seats or the staff will make them sit.

CANVASSING

Canvass proceeded with COCs being opened and scrutinized for due execution first by the canvassing board and then by lawyers of the candidates.

The lawyers are allowed to make manifestations and observations for three minutes each. If there are no objections, the results are entered into the official running tally, which has yet to be released.

COCs are opened in order of arrival in electronic transmissions. The electronic transmissions are compared with the physically delivered COCs and if there is no discrepancy, then the figures become part of the running tally.

The first to be canvassed was the COC from Davao del Sur. There were five printouts indicating five transmissions. The first printout had different figures from the next four printouts which were all identical with each other and the physically delivered COC. Thus, the second electronic transmission was then admitted into the official tally.

Dilangalen asked for the secret markings of the COC. Robredo's legal counsel, Romulo Macalintal, said the question was not proper since lawyers can only object to the COC. Dilangalen said they were not objecting.

Congressman Rolando Andaya then asked the panel to make the Commission on Elections (Comelec) explain the printout with the different figure within 24 hours.

Larrazabal, called for a streamlining of the process, noting the length of the canvass for Davao del Sur.

After the Davao del Sur COC was canvassed, it was followed by the COCs from Ghana and Malaysia. Malaysia's electronically transmitted COC was the only one vetted since the manually delivered COC has yet to arrive.

This was then followed by the COC of South Korea and San Juan City, hometown of Senator Grace Poe, where Duterte won. The Guimaras COC was canvassed next.

Another legal counsel of Marcos, George Garcia, observed an apparent discrepancy in the COC of Cebu City and wanted it deferred. Macalintal made a counter-offer to include the COC in the canvass.

Senator-elect Leila de Lima, a lawyer for Robredo, noted that the COC appeared to have a discrepancy because not all of the precincts have reported results.

Garcia, however, noted that the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) would not generate a COC if that were the case. Garcia wants the poll body to explain.

Congressman Elpidio Barzaga said if there is a discrepancy between manual and electronic transmitted COCs, the local canvassing boards can be made to explain.

Barzaga, however, said that as far as the committee is concerned, there is no discrepancy since their job is ministerial. Cebu City was canvassed.

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