Comelec blames 'clerical error' for discrepancy in Cotabato certificate of canvass

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2019 08:49 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2019 10:52 PM

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MANILA - The Commission on Elections on Wednesday blamed a "clerical error" for conflicting data in the certificate of canvass that shows a majority of voters in Cotabato City favored the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The document stated that there were 39,027 voters in the southern city. This was below the total 61,676 votes cast, of which 36,682 was "yes" and 24,994 was "no." 

The certificate of canvass misstated the number of voters in the city, which is actually 113,751, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement, upon verification with the Project of Precincts. 

Comelec blames 'clerical error' for discrepancy in Cotabato certificate of canvass 1
Documents show a different set of statistics for the number of registered voters of Cotabato City and the number of voters who actually voted. ABS-CBN News

"Malinaw na nagkaroon ng clerical error sa pag-prepare ng canvass report," he told radio DZMM. 

"Doon sa dokumento na ipinakita, hindi nagtutugma iyung math e, mali iyung pagsusuma nung mga figures doon. So obviously nagkamali talaga ng sulat," he added. 

(There was clearly a clerical error in the preparation of the canvass report. In the document shown, the math does not correspond, the sum of the figures was wrong. So obviously, there was a mistake in the writing.) 

Comelec blames 'clerical error' for discrepancy in Cotabato certificate of canvass 2
Documents show a different set of statistics for the number of registered voters of Cotabato City and the number of voters who actually voted. ABS-CBN News

The clerical error can be corrected by the national election board of canvassers, which will pore through the certificates of canvass from all provinces likely until Friday, he said. 

The board will also look into any issue that may crop up during the canvassing, including the reported "zero votes" in some Cotabato polling precincts, said Jimenez. 

Cotabato tallied a 54.2 percent voter turnout, lower than ARMM, which saw a 90 percent turnout in some areas. 

Jimenez did not mention the turnout in Isabela, Basilan which also participated in the plebiscite. 

The poll was generally peaceful despite scuffles between critics and supporters of the Bangsamoro in some areas, he said. 

There was no report of failure of elections in any area so far, he added. 

Former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the error was "not as bad as some people think."

"But it's not as simple as it appears because what happened there was it appears that there was an error in the inputting of the information of the certificate of canvass of votes," Larrazabal told ANC.

"What's important here is . . . If you look at the certificate of canvass, that's handwritten, di ba? So they copied it from another document so what's the basis of those numbers?"

Larrazabal added that the national board of canvassers have to make sure there are no other errors.

"There's already one error there, you have to be sure other entries are also error-free so you have to check tama ba 'yung computation for yes vote, tama ba 'yung computation for no vote," he said.

The Bangsamoro law, the product of a 2014 peace pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was a hotly contested topic in Cotabato City, where Mayor Cynthia Guiani campaigned against the landmark legislation. 

Under the measure, Bangsamoro will get $950 million in development funds over the next 10 years, as well as a chunk of the tax revenue generated within its borders.

The law's approval will also trigger the demobilization of a third of MILF's fighters, which it says number 30,000. 

Muslim rebels have long been battling for independence or autonomy on Mindanao, which they regard as their ancestral homeland dating back to when Arab traders arrived there in the 13th century.
 
The armed struggle has claimed some 120,000 lives, with most deaths reported in the 1970s. 

With a report from Agence France-Presse