Roxas pins hopes on 'null votes'

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2010 01:13 AM | Updated as of Jun 02 2010 08:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Reminiscent of Albert Gore's 2000 bid for the US presidency, the camp of Senator Mar Roxas, Liberal Party vice-presidential candidate, is now mounting a spirited campaign to make sure every vote cast for the vice-president is counted.

Roxas, currently locked in a close race with Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay to be the country’s 2nd highest official, through his lawyers, called for an expanded random manual audit of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

On Tuesday, his lawyers noted the high number of “null votes” in almost every certificate of canvass (COC) canvassed by the Joint Committee of Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers for President and Vice-President.

Roxas' lawyer Joey Tenefrancia of the Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo and Angangco Firm, told ABS-CBN News that as much as 2.6 million votes for the vice-presidency alone were considered by PCOS machines as “null votes.”

Null votes refer to votes not counted by the PCOS machines for any of the following reasons---improper shading, undervoting or overvoting for a specific position.

Lawyer George Garcia, lawyer for former President  Joseph Estrada, himself manifested before the joint committee’s Tuesday night session that the null votes for the vice-presidency, per COC, never seem to be more than 25% of the votes for vice-president, and never more than the votes for president, suggesting a consistent trend.

Tenefrancia said that considering the PCOS machines had problems counting votes during tests before Election Day, it may be possible that the same thing happened to the votes for vice-president.

He asserted that considering this is a close race, they are confident once all votes are properly counted, they will decisively overtake Roxas’ closest rival, Binay.

Roxas’s lawyers and allies in Congress had earlier asked that election returns be tallied parallel to the congressional canvass to counter-check the results of the canvass, something the joint committee ruled against.

Committee chairs House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had insisted on canvass rule 20, which says proof of irreconcilable discrepancies on the certificates of canvass be presented first before election returns--the source documents of certificates of canvass--are opened to scrutiny.

The Comelec has been tasked to explain the large number of null votes on all certificates of canvass during the Wednesday session of the joint committee.

On the same day, the committee is expected to try to finish canvassing the remaining 89 certificates of canvass, as well as entertain explanations and justifications from the Comelec and provincial boards of canvassers on discrepancies and other questions on some 20 COC’s that were earlier deferred.

Roxas and Binay have been running neck and neck in all unofficial counts of the May 10 election results, much like former US Vice-President Al Gore in 2000, where he narrowly lost the US Presidential election to former US President George W. Bush over similar questions on whether all votes were actually counted in the state of Florida.