Comelec chief hits new poll fraud claim

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista has questioned Tuesday the timing of the exposé of three "witnesses" who claimed rigging votes for administration pick Mar Roxas and his running mate, Vice President-elect Leni Robredo.

"Napakadali pong mag-accuse, napakadali pong magtapon ng putik. Nangyayari parati iyan. ang problema ay iyung pruweba. Sana ang mga tao, responsable. Kapag may sasabihin silang accusation, dapat talaga sinusuportahan iyan ng tamang ebidensya," Bautista said.

On Monday, three "witnesses" said they are government employees and were asked to reconfigure the SD cards containing votes from Quezon province.

One "witness" claimed they padded 400,000 votes for Roxas and 300,000 votes for Robredo during the operation. He also said Robredo's rival, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., lost some 200,000 votes when the SD cards were manipulated. Witnesses however failed to produce evidence.

Bautista said he is wondering why the "witnesses" surfaced three weeks after the election.

"Parang ang pumasok sa aking isipan, ewan ko, iyun bang too late the hero. Bakit ngayon lang? Kung mayroon talagang ebidensya at pruweba ng dayaan, bakit ngayong lang lalantad?" he said.

The poll chief also emphasized that any attempt to cheat the polls was virtually impossible due to the numerous safeguards mandated by law and implemented by Comelec.

Among these measures, Bautista said, is the issuance of voter's receipts which allowed the public to verify if their ballots were read correctly by the vote counting machines.

The Comelec is also currently conducting a random manual audit (RMA) which seeks to determine if there is any difference between the automated and manual count of votes.

To boost pubic confidence in the accuracy of the RMA, the Comelec also tripled the number of precincts that they are now auditing compared to previous elections. Bautista said that from 234 precincts in 2013, a total of 715 precincts will be employed for the RMA this elections.

The official also noted that Comelec uploaded all 92,509 election returns at a public website that voters may use to double-check the votes received by all candidates.

Bautista said the poll body is open to any investigation as long as allegations are backed by credible evidence and not just hearsay,

Robredo won with 14,418,817 votes based on 167 certificates of canvass (CoCs). Marcos, the son of the late dictator, lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes.

READ: Congress proclaims Duterte president, Robredo as VP


Meanwhile, Robredo's lawyer, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, insisted that the numbers cited by Saycon's "witnesses" do not add up.

"Kung nadagdagan tayo ng boto na 500,000, dapat sana nag-exceed ang number of voters who actually voted," Macalintal said in an earlier press conference Monday.

Apart from the latest allegations against Robredo, the Marcos camp has repeatedly claimed that a change in an election-related hash code may have compromised the partial and unofficial results of the vice presidential race.

Marcos himself has also questioned the "undervotes" of nearly 4 million, his receipt of zero votes in certain areas, the malfunctioning of some vote-counting machines and allegedly rampant vote-buying attempts.

READ: Data scientists, academics debunk Marcos' electoral fraud claim

The senator's camp said it was considering filing an election protest case to contest the victory of Robredo.

Robredo, on her part, said Monday that Marcos has a right to file an election protest but added that his allegations are a disservice to voters.

"Karapatan naman niya maghain ng anumang reklamo, pero 'yung sa akin, tingin ko, disservice sa ating kababayan na sinasabi niyang hindi siya naniniwala kung saan ang aking boto."

She added, "parang insulto naman iyon sa kanila na tinatawaran ang kanilang efforts at tulong."