PPCRV chair clarifies group’s role after open letter from 'volunteer'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2022 10:59 PM

MANILA - The chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting on Sunday defended the poll watchdog after an open letter, which questioned the role of the poll watchdog, began circulating on social media. 

PPCRV chairman Myla Villanueva clarified it was not the group’s mandate to conduct a random manual audit of ballots. 

Instead, the church-based poll watchdog’s task was to guard against “dagdag bawas” that may be committed through transmission fraud, Villanueva said. 

Other poll watchdogs do manual audits of randomly selected ballot boxes, the PPCRV chair said. 

Villanueva issued the clarification after an open letter from a certain Freddy Olbes, who was purportedly a PPCRV volunteer, was passed around on social media. 

According to the open letter, Olbes said he volunteered as an encoder with the PPCRV “on Thursday, 12 May 2022 because of legitimate concerns that this government was not playing on a level playing field.”

“I was under the impression that we were going to encode individual ballot receipts from the different precincts that allegedly had been selected randomly throughout the country and arrive at our own totals.

“I was surprised and disappointed therefore, to find out that what we were encoding were precinct totals already added up from election returns handed in by the Comelec - the very body whose results we were ostensibly investigating,” the open letter said. 

"The exercise that we volunteers were undertaking was akin to examining the veracity of an original document by perusing its carbon copy," the Olbes letter continued.

The letter then said the PPCRV was “acting as the Comelec's (and by inference the government's) rubber stamp.”

In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Villanueva explained why the PPCRV does not audit actual ballots. 

“This is not our mandate. It is our friends at NAMFREL [National Movement for Free Elections] and LENTE [Legal Network for Truthful Elections] who are actually doing this as we speak,” Villanueva said. 

The two other poll watchdogs are currently at Diamond Hotel and checking around 757 randomly selected ballot boxes against ERs, she said. 

PPCRV meanwhile protects against “Dagdag Bawas,” or shaving votes from one candidate and adding them to another candidate, by comparing pre-transmission paper ERs with the transmitted electronic ERs, Villanueva said. 

She added that media groups monitor the church-based poll watchdog’s activity through the PPCRV-KBP Transparency-Media Server.

“As you can see, we are not alone in UST Command Center. The fourth estate is there with us in the Arena,” she said.

PPCRV's manual audit is expected to run until May 20. Since May 9, the poll watchdog has had over 5,000 volunteers who took part in the manual audit of ERs, as well as over half a million volunteers who were deployed in various polling centers.

As of May 15, PPCRV yielded a 98.42 percent match rate for 37 percent audited and matched ERs.

- With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

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