VP canvassing: Which areas matter?
MANILA, Philippines – As Congress convened in a joint committee for the official canvassing of votes for the two highest positions in the land on Wednesday, May 25, all eyes were on the vice presidential count.
The unofficial tally, capturing votes for 96.14% of total precincts, showed administration candidate Leni Robredo ahead of Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr by over 200,000. The latter's camp, however, believes its candidate would win by over 100,000 votes in the end.
The Marcos team said that the 2016 canvassing of votes would not be as easy as in the 2010 elections, when the process only took 9 meetings from May 26 to June 8. (READ: Audit of vice presidential votes? Here are the hurdles)
Challenging all COCs?
Days before the start of canvassing, seasoned lawyer George Garcia, one of the election lawyers of Marcos, said they would challenge all COCs to prove that Marcos won the race. (READ: Marcos lawyer: ‘We will challenge every COC’)
But even former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, also an election lawyer of Marcos, said it would be impossible to do this. (READ: 2016 canvassing of votes for president, VP: The basics)
"Ah, no. It depends. Not everything; probably those [COCs] that we have issues [with] only. In areas where Marcos won, would we question that? Not anymore. The ones that will be questioned are those coming from all areas where Marcos lost, most probably," Brillantes explained.
Brillantes also said the Marcos camp has documents showing where he won and lost.
"In areas where he also won, where there were big margins, then suddenly plummeted, we will also question those. Like in the ARMM provinces, where there were so many anomalies," Brillantes added.
Based on the Senate and party-list canvass proceedings by the Comelec, plus observations based on data from the partial, unofficial Comelec transparency server, these are the COCs that may serve as crucial battlegrounds either in the canvassing of the vice presidential election results or in the filing of possible electoral protests. Votes were obtained from the Comelec results page.
|Province||Reason||Votes for Robredo||Votes for Marcos|
|Bohol||In these provinces, either election results from certain towns were not transmitted properly (i.e. pre-election logical accuracy tests or pre-LAT results got mixed with actual votes), or the physical copy and one of the electronically-transmitted copies of the COCs did not match during the Senate canvass. The COCs were promptly revised to canvass the correct results.||276,486||80,593|
|Davao del Norte||42,684||130,796|
|Benguet||COCs from these provinces were quarantined and double-checked by the Comelec during the Senate canvass to see "if any municipality has been omitted."||33,413||95,927|
|Zamboanga del Sur||100,188||145,455|
|Basilan||Marcos received zero votes in many precincts in these provinces. Many precincts also reported 100% voter turnout.||77,321||32,326|
|Lanao del Sur||180,539||56,243|
|Sulu||Robredo received zero votes in many precincts in Sulu. Many precincts also reported 100% voter turnout.||46,218||127,437|
|Ilocos Norte||Marcos' home province. Robredo received zero votes in 73 precincts. Another 375 precincts gave 4 votes each or less to Robredo.||3,704||298,786|
|Camarines Sur||Robredo's home province. Marcos received zero votes in 7 precincts, and got less than 5 votes from an additional 115 precincts.||664,190||41,219|
On May 25, Congress suspended the canvassing of COCs from Laguna, Ilocos Sur, and Davao del Norte due to discrepancies found between the physical and electronically-transmitted COC copies. These were admitted and canvassed the next day, May 26, but with Laguna’s votes corrected.
Among the list above, only Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sulu have yet to be canvassed as of Thursday.
Meanwhile, here is a running tally of the votes for the VP elections. There are two totals below, based on (1) COCs posted on the Comelec results page as of May 23 and (2) COCs as admitted and canvassed by Congress as of May 26.
Cells shaded in red or yellow indicate the winner between Robredo and Marcos in each province. If neither candidate won in a province, the top vote-getter is set in bold font, while the cells for either Robredo or Marcos (whoever is leading) are set in a lighter shade.
With 114 COCs officially canvassed by Congress as of Thursday, Marcos was leading by over 83,000 votes. Most of the COCs that have been canvassed were from the "Solid North" regions and Metro Manila, where Marcos won. There are 51 more COCs left to be canvassed.
However, if all COCs currently on the Comelec’s results page were admitted, Robredo would lead by around 282,000 votes.
Flashback to 2004 elections
This year’s canvassing of votes reminds us of the 2004 elections, wherein Macalintal and Brillantes were also the same election lawyers to then presidential candidates Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr, respectively. (READ: Poll lawyers Macalintal, Brillantes: from GMA-FPJ to Leni-Bongbong)
Just the same, Arroyo won the presidential race, while Poe accused Arroyo's camp of committing election fraud.
During the canvassing in 2004, lawyers questioned a number of COCs, including secret markings, erasures, alterations, signatures and thumb marks of the members of the BOCs.
A list from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism showed that FPJ’s camp asked for deferment of a number of COCs from the provinces of Biliran, Capiz, Camarines Norte, Tarlac, Apayao, and Cebu City.
With the automated elections in place, how are these lawyers going to play the game?
In a phone interview with Brillantes, he said that unlike in the 2004 canvassing wherein there were a lot of errors because everything was done manually, the electronically-transmitted ones would mostly have no errors.
"Malaki ang pagkakaiba....Ibig sabihin, [noong 2004] maraming question regarding its authenticity – kung tama ang pagkakagawa. Iniiisa-isa yang dokumento. Maraming mga errors yan, sinusulat kasi isa-isa. Yung online, hindi na, dahil electronically-transmitted yang mga yan eh. Therefore, wala kang makikitang error sa pagkakagawa," Brillantes explained.
(There's a big difference. Meaning, [in 2004] there were a lot of questions regarding its authenticity – if it was made right. The documents were checked one by one. There were a lot of errors because they were written one by one. The online, not so much, because they are electronically-transmitted. Therefore, no errors would be seen.)
He clarifies however, that while there are two COCs to be compared, it is still the printed COCs that will be questioned.
"Yung [electronically] transmitted sa kanila (Congress), tapos tatanggapin nila yung physically prepared na COC, yung pirmado ng mga members ng provincial board. These will be the ones that will be compared kung meron discrepancy o wala....Yan ang bubuksan ng Congress. Under the Constitution, 'yan ang gagamitin to complain, iyang physical, hindi yung electronic," Brillantes explained.
(The electronically-transmitted ones will come from Congress, and they will accept the physically prepared COC, those that are signed by the members of the PBOC. These will be the ones that will be compared whether or not there are discrepancies....That will be opened by Congress. Under the Constitution, the physical ones will be used regarding complaints, not the electronic ones.)
"If it’s identical with the electronic, there's no issue; they are most probably the same. But then, there can also be discrepancies even if they are the same. We can still question those," he added.
Among the things that can be questioned, according to Brillantes, is the authenticity of the papers, as had been done in other COCs from areas such as Cebu City back in 2004.
"Maraming grounds 'yan. Marami kaming puwedeng i-raise – 'yung hindi na authentic 'yung persons, napalitan na 'yung papel, wala 'yung mga security features nung papel," Brillantes explained.
(There are many grounds [for questioning]. We have a lot [of questions] that we can raise – those regarding the authenticity of the persons, or papers that were changed, the papers had no security features.)
With a few more days left before the canvassing ends, which camp will be able to question the remaining COCs to its advantage? (READ: Marcos camp questions Cebu City COC over discrepancy) – Rappler.com