Comelec checks reports vote machines in Cubao hotel

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Poll chief Andres Bautista on Monday debunked reports that vote counting machines were hidden at a hotel located at the Araneta Complex, which is owned by the family of administration standard bearer Mar Roxas.

Bautista, chairman of the Commission on Elections, said he and other representatives found no VCMs inside the Hotel Novotel in Cubao, Quezon City.

However, he confirmed that officials of election system provider Smartmatic are staying there.

''Wala kaming nakitang mga VCMs sa mga kwarto. Hindi lang kwarto ng mga Smartmatic kundi pati mga katabing kwarto,'' he said.

''Ang panawagan ko na lang din, sana huwag basta bastang magbibigay ng mga balita na walang pruweba o ebidensya. Makikita niyo ang daming oras na nasayang."

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier cited reports that several VCMs were discovered in rooms in Novotel Cubao, sparking fears of a government-perpetrated poll cheating.

Administration coalition spokesperson Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III criticized PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa for repeating the rumor, calling the allegation as ''completely bereft of basis and substance."

''There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that there are VCMs in Novotel. First of all, the Comelec has fully accounted for all VCMs, each of which has a unique ID that allows the Comelec to know where it is. This means it is impossible for anyone to misplace these machines,'' Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said De Villa must apologize if the PPCRV's statement will be proven false.

''Like all Filipinos, we support honest and credible elections. Spreading baseless and unsubstantiated rumors is not only irresponsible, but also illegal as it undermines the credibility of the electoral process,'' he said.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said if the allegation is proven to be false, those who made the claim must be charged with an election offense.

"Those people responsible for circulating false reports of VCMs allegedly deposited in a hotel and those circulating reports of apparently fake ballots or so-called pre-marked ballots w 'pink line' allegedly intended for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo should be held criminally liable for an election offense,'' Macalintal said.

''Their acts were clearly intended to cause confusion among the voters and they are propagating "false and alarming information relating to the printing of official ballot. These acts are punishable as election offenses under Section 261(z)(11) of the Omnibus Election Code."

As of this hour, the Comelec's Voter Care Center has received reports about confusion over precinct numbers and polling precincts, as well as malfunctioning VCMs. The reports on the VCMs have been sent to the national technical support center.

Comelec has urged the public not to post pictures of their accomplished ballots.

The poll body is also collating reports about delays in voting attributed to late arrival of election paraphernalia, inadequate power supply and late boards of election inspectors. The Comelec will make a decision on the possible extension of voting hours. – with a report from Gretchen Fullido, ABS-CBN News