MANILA (UPDATE) — Comelec Commissioner George Garcia on Monday dismissed reports that Vice President Leni Robredo’s name was omitted from a ballot in New Zealand, calling the incident “fake news.”
In an interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, Garcia said that ballots are printed by batch, so there should be multiple complaints lodged if ever the allegations were true.
Garcia added that a former member of New Zealand’s parliament, Paulo Reyes Garcia, had confirmed receipt of a ballot with all the candidates’ names present.
“Maniwala po kayo. Sa ating mga kababayan, hindi po totoo yan, fake news po. Nagdeklara na po ang ating embahada diyan po sa New Zealand. Wala po silang natanggap kahit isa man na reklamo mula sa mga kababayan sa New Zealand,” Garcia said.
(Please believe us. That is not true. That’s fake news. Our embassy in New Zealand has made a declaration that they have not received a single complaint from our compatriots there.)
“Pag nagpi-print po kasi ng balota… hindi po kasi po kasi pwedeng isang piraso lang ang print. Batch po yun. Kung isang halimbawa po, ‘yong number ng New Zealand ay isang buong batch ng isang libong balota, eh di sana po kahapon pa lamang ay may isang libo na po tayong mga kababayan na nagreklamo na wala ang pangalan ng isang kandidato,” Garcia said.
(When we print ballots, we don’t print them individually. We print them by batch. For example, if a batch for New Zealand voters consists of a thousand ballots, then there should be a thousand of our compatriots complaining that a candidate’s name is missing from their ballots.)
In a separate statement, Comelec said that the official ballot where Robredo's name was allegedly missing was "deliberately edited."
The poll body's Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) confirmed that the photo was “deliberately edited to make it appear that VP Robredo’s name is missing from the list of Presidential candidates.”
“The OFOV is coordinating closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand to identify the persons responsible for editing the photo and for spreading said photo on social media,” it said.
Garcia heads the poll body’s task force against fake news which will investigate the matter.
The commissioner added that he will discuss the issue with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“That’s right. Fake news everywhere. Dami na namin na-refer sa NBI,“ Garcia said in a text message Sunday.
(We have referred a lot of them to the NBI.)
Garcia also showed a statement from the Philippine Embassy in Wellington New Zealand encouraging Filipino voters to return ballots with missing names, if any, to the embassy so it can be verified.
"The Philippine Embassy in Wellington is committed to upholding the integrity of the national elections as we stand by our oath as career civil servants to uphold the values of patriotism, integrity, professionalism, excellence and service," the embassy said in its statement issued Sunday.
— with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News