Congress starts canvassing votes for president, VP

By Carmela Fonbuena, Newsbreak

Posted at May 27 2010 07:31 PM | Updated as of May 28 2010 06:36 AM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, early evening on Thursday finally started canvassing the votes cast for President and Vice-President.

Congress decided to canvass first the results of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV), which used manual elections, except in two areas.

After 5 certificates of canvass (COCs) from Laos, Guam, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Aquino and Roxas of the Liberal Party led in the presidential and vice-presidential counts.

For President:

Vetallano Acosta - 10
Benigno Aquino III -  2,014
JC de los Reyes - 10
Joseph Estrada -  400
Richard Gordon -  298
Jamby Madrigal -  7
Nicanor Perlas -  2
Gilbert Teodoro -  548
Eddie Villanueva -  362
Manny Villar -  585

For Vice President:

Jejomar Binay - 642
Dominador Chipeco - 5
Bayani Fernando - 459
Loren Legarda - 855
Edu Manzano - 108
Mar Roxas - 1,920
Jay Sonza - 31
Perfecto Yasay - 182

The joint session ended at 8:44 pm and will resume on Friday at 1 pm.

First OAV ballots from Laos

The first ballot box from the Kingdom of Laos was opened at 6:57 p.m.

“It appears to be in good condition with 3 padlocks,” announced Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to a clapping gallery.

They had to use a bolt cutter to open the locks. “Look how secure this ballot box is,” Enrile said.

Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III led the voting in Laos with 55 votes.

Senator Manuel Villar Jr. got 38 votes. Former President Joseph Estrada had 16 votes. Senator Richard Gordon got 28 votes. Former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. got 18 votes. Evangelist Eduardo Villanueva got 14 votes.

In the vice-presidential race, Aquino's running mate Senator Manuel Roxas II topped the polls in Laos with 72 votes.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay got 33 votes. Former Metropolitan Manila and Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando got 24 votes. Senator Loren Legarda got 27 votes. Actor Edu Manzano got 4 votes. Former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Perfecto Yasay got 9 votes.

All the other candidates got zero votes.

After the Kingdom of Laos, they proceeded to canvass results from Guam.

Based on the Rules of the Joint Public Session of Congress on Canvassing of the votes cast for the President and Vice-Presidential candidates, the canvassing should operate based on the “first-come, first-served” basis. The first ballots received should be the first to be canvassed.

The ballot box from the Kingdom of Laos was received at 9:05 p.m. on May 11.

Except Hong Kong and Singapore, all the other countries or territories used manual polls.

The motion to proceed with the canvassing of the results of the manual elections was made by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.

An ardent critic of the automated polls, Maguindanao Rep. Didagen "Digs" Dilangalen, who earlier stated that he was opposed to the motion, had left the plenary when Zubiri made the motion.

The Senate and the House of Representatives first convened as the National Board of Canvassers on Tuesday, but canvassing was delayed by the endless questions about the automated elections.

The first day was spent on deliberating the rules of canvassing for the country's first nationwide automated polls.

Congress spent the second day and the most part of the third day grilling officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic on the “authenticity” of the electronically transmitted results of the May 10 polls.

Separate TWG

With the endless questions on the authenticity of the results of the automated polls, Enrile sought a compromise by proposing the creation of a technical working group (TWG)—composed of IT experts—that would hold a separate inquiry into the lingering allegations against the automated election system.

It remains unclear if they will proceed with the canvassing of the results of the automated polls once all the results of the manual polls are tabulated.

To avoid the scenario of not having a new president by noon of June 30, Enrile sought to immediately start the canvassing of votes. He said they can proceed with it while the TWG looks into the authenticity of the automated polls.

Nograles agreed with Enrile's suggestion, although a formal motion to create the technical working group had yet to be made on the floor.

“The chair agrees that this is a working solution so that we will not be trapped into so much debate on the technical aspects. I appeal to our colleagues: this is to me the most expeditious way so we can finish and meet deadline we have set forth,” Nograles said.

Enrile wanted to subpoena all the compact flash cards used in the 76,000 polling machines or the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting machines so the TWG can examine them.

“We want to subpoena the 76,000 compact flash cards and ask the Comelec for the audit logs of the PCOS machines,” Enrile said.

“We do this without impeding our wok as canvassers. We do this hand in hand. To me, this is the key issue in this canvassing process: what happened when there was a retrieval of the flash cards? In order to erase doubt, let's do it while we are doing the canvass. If there is an indication that there was substantial effect on the votes, we decide what we are going to do,” Enrile added.

“The IT group of the Senate and the House can do their own independent audit of all of these technical matters while we continue our canvass,” Nograles said.

However, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal stressed the difficulty of examining each of 76,000 compact flash cards.

Larrazabal explained that the flash cards are encrypted, and any activity should be done under the control of the Comelec. He offered office spaces to the TWG for this activity.

Larrazabal also noted that Comelec's Random Manual Audit can also prove that the results are authentic.

Enrile said the IT team will select which ones to look into. The joint panel has yet to discuss details of the TWG.

'Digs' delays canvassing

Rep. Dilangalen single handedly delayed the canvassing.

He opposed the moves to open the ballot boxes without first finishing the deliberations on the authenticity of the results of the automated polls.

“I cannot agree that we proceed with canvassing without clearing all these matters. This is very important. How do we know that the results are not compromised? It is important that we finish first this investigation to be conducted by the IT group. For the moment, it is premature,” Dilangalen said.

“It is very clear that we could only start the canvassing proper once we determine the due execution of electronic COCs [Certificates of Canvass] in accordance with law. The moment we start with canvassing, it means to say we already admitted due execution and genuineness of the COCs. All questions will become moot and academic,” Dilangalen added.

Dilangalen had left the plenary when Zubiri made the motion to canvass the results of OAV that used manual polls.

Other congressmen also shared his fears especially after Smartmatic admitted innocent program errors in the automated system. Some lawmakers were alarmed that the results may have been altered. (Read: Smartmatic admission of program errors alarms lawmakers)

Smartmatic Asia-Pacific President Cesar Flores admitted application errors in the number of registered voters and the machine clocks.

Upon initializing the server in the House of Representatives—which receives the electronic results of the elections--the Senate and House staff discovered the machine showing that the total number of registered voters was 256 million or 5 times the actual number of registered voters in the Philippines.

Flores admitted the “application error” but assured that it was only the variable that was affected by the error. The results of the election were not affected, he said.

While the 12 senators have been proclaimed based on the tally of the Comelec, the Constitution mandates that the National Board of Canvassers count the votes and proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice-presidential race.

The Comelec tally--which is about 90% of the results sent so far nationwide--shows that Aquino will win the presidential race with at least 14 million votes. His closest rival, former President Joseph Estrada, has around 9 million votes.

The result of the vice-presidential race remains close. Leading candidate Makati Mayor Jejomar "Jojo" Binay has a slim lead of 800,000 votes over Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II. As of posting, Binay had 13.6 million votes while Roxas had 12.8 million.

(See ABS-CBN tally)

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile earlier said they will proclaim the next president and vice-president on or before June 15 or two weeks before the positions will be constitutionally vacant on June 30.

Joint Panel

Instead of the entire Congress, the senators and the congressmen created a joint committee panel to compose the National Board of Canvassers. The Senate and House have nine members each in their panels.

The members from the Senate are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Aquilino Pimentel, Gregorio Honasan, Edgardo Angara, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Joker Arroyo.

Representatives Prospero Nograles (Davao City), Arthur Defensor Sr. (Iloilo), Ronaldo Zamora (San Juan), Neptali Gonzales II (Mandaluyong), Jesus Crispin Remulla, Roilo Golez, Didagen Dilangalen, Michael John Jack Duavit, and Matias Defensor.

The alternate members of the board are Senators Francis Pangilinan, Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada, Pia Cayetano, and representatives Simeon Datumanong, Teodoro Locsin, Rufus Rodriguez, Lorenzo Tañada III, Liwayway Chato, Pedro Romualdo, Joseph Emilio Abaya, Eduardo Zialcita, Giorgidi Aggabao, and Darlene Antonio Custodio.

The joint panels will tabulate a total of 278 vote tallies from provinces, large cities, embassies and consulates across the globe, hoping to declare a winner for the top two positions by June 15, if not earlier.

The deadline for a president to be declared is June 30.

Enrile said they planned to finish an average of 13 vote tallies from embassies and consulates every day and would tabulate votes counted by machines after technical questions are resolved. -- with a report RG Cruz, ABS-CB News; Manny Mogato, Reuters