Comelec settles discrepancies in Cotabato City plebiscite records

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2019 04:50 PM

A poll watcher looks at an outdoor list as military personnel patrol voting precincts at the Cotabato City Central Pilot School during the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite, January 21, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday ruled there was no discrepancy in the number of votes cast against Cotabato City’s inclusion in the new Bangsamoro region, as reflected in two separate official plebiscite documents. 

A report by the Comelec’s audit and tabulation unit showed that the supposed discrepancy of 2,487 votes against inclusion were actually recorded on the second page of the summary statement of votes for the city.

Page 1 of the summary statement showed 22,507 “no” votes, bringing the total number of negative votes to 24,994, the same figure reflected on the city’s certificate of canvass.

The certificate showed a much higher 36,682 votes favoring the city’s inclusion in the new region. 

“So based on the report of the audit and tabulation group, there has been no discrepancy,” said Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas, who presided over the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers.

The board proceeded with canvassing in the afternoon, ruling another reported discrepancy in the Cotabato City plebiscite as a “formal defect.”

The canvass certificate earlier showed 39,027 actual voters in the city during the Jan. 21 plebiscite. 

It was fewer by 22,649 compared to the combined “yes” and “no” votes, which totaled 61,676.

“The discrepancy or the incompleteness of the number of registered voters, and number of registered voters who actually voted in the certitificate of canvass of Cotabato City, is hereby ordered as a formal defect,” Abas said.

“So, in that case, we will proceed with the canvass of the COC.”

Per Comelec records, around 1.7 million registered voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao showed up in the plebiscite to determine the fate of the BOL, a law that seeks to create an autonomous Bangsamoro entity seen to end decades of strife in Mindanao. 

Some 61,600 people also voted in Cotabato City and about 41,400 more in Isabela City, Basilan.

Voters in nearly all areas covered by the plebiscite voted in favor of the law, except in Sulu and Isabela City. A second plebiscite will be held on Feb. 6 in North Cotabato villages and Lanao del Norte towns, except Iligan.

-- with a report from Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News