Comelec en banc postpones canvassing of votes for Cotabato City

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2019 05:54 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), on Thursday put on hold the canvassing of votes for Cotabato City as discrepancies in the figures written in the certificate of canvass were questioned.

After opening the certificate of canvass, Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia questioned why the total number of those who voted differed from the total number of votes.

In the records of Cotabato City Plebiscite Board of Canvassers, the “yes” votes totaled 36,682, while the “no” votes reached 24,994, for a total number of votes of 61,676. 

But in the certificate of canvass submitted to the NBOC, the total number of votes was only 39,027.

According to Comelec precinct, the total number of registered voters in Cotabato is 113,751.

Atty. Rommel Rama, acting Cotabato City Election Officer, said the discrepancy in the numbers was due to omission and inaccurate recording of the plebiscite committee (plebcom) members or the teachers and police personnel who managed the polling precincts.

“During canvassing, we noticed election returns that have no entries particularly on the number of registered voters, voters who actually voted, and voters who did not vote,” Rama said.

Rama explained that they only adopted what the plebiscite committee encoded in their particular precincts, hence the discrepancies in the figures.

“If there are no entries in the particular precinct, we cannot make an entry on the subcanvassing. There is also an instance where plebcom adopted the total number of votes to that of the entry on of numbers who actually voted," he said.

“There was an error on the part of plebcom, that is why the computation is not accurate because of the data encoded by plebcom,” Rama added.

But Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon also noticed another discrepancy: a difference in the number of “no” votes written in the Summary of Votes with that on the Certificate of Canvass.

In the certificate of canvass, the “no” votes had 24,994, while in the Summary of Votes, the “no” votes had 22,507, or some 2,400 fewer votes.

“Isn’t that supposed to be the same?” Guanzon asked.

“We have to check for recomputation, your honor,” Rama answered.

In the end, Comelec Chairman Sherif Abas referred the Cotabato City certificates of canvass to the tabulation committee for re-computation as well as auditing by the auditing group of the NBOC.

The certificate of canvass for Cotabato City was opened shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday by the NBOC at the Comelec Central Office in Intramuros, Manila. It was opened in the presence of witnesses from both the representatives of the “yes” and “no”, as well as from national and international observers.

Meanwhile, the certificate of canvass from Isabela City in Basilan arrived at the Comelec Central Office around 3:15 p.m. Thursday. They are due to be canvassed Friday.