Senator’s camp presses search for missing votes
FOR the camp of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the fight is not yet over.
Marcos insisted Saturday he was potentially deprived of nearly four million votes through cheating and malfunctioning vote-counting machines. Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), finished counting votes on Friday and declared Rep. Leni Robredo the winner in the vice presidential race.
George Garcia, head of the senator’s legal team, said they are gathering evidence for a potential “election protest.”
“The search for Senator Marcos’s missing votes did not end with the canvassing,” Garcia said in a statement Saturday.
Garcia said 3.9 million votes for Marcos were not reflected in the official count.
“We suspect that these votes were credited to other candidates…. We believe these votes belong to Bongbong Marcos,” he added.
However, he said any legal action to question the result of the election will be made after Robredo is proclaimed vice president.
Garcia said among the grounds that may be raised if a protest is filed is the unusually high number of undervotes that stood at a final figure of 3.902 million, considering the high turnout in the hotly-contested 2016 elections.
“We deserve an explanation on this matter,” the lawyer said.
Garcia said they are in the process of collating affidavits of witnesses on alleged incidents of cheating as well as reports on the malfunctioning of the Canvassing and Consolidation System and some Vote Counting Machines.
He said their information technology experts presented technical information that may be used in the filing of an election protest. At first glance, this information seems to be “convincing,” according to Garcia.
However, he said the rules of the canvassing do not allow these “evidence” to be presented before the NBOC.
If Marcos will file an election protest, Garcia said it will likely focus on the election returns from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Visayas, where most of the undervotes allegedly occurred.
The official canvass showed that Robredo won by just over 263,000 votes.
But Garcia said they will continue the quest for truth not only for Marcos but for the benefit of the entire nation.
“At napaka-importante, for future reference, dahil kung nangyari ito ngayon may posibilidad mangyayari sa mga susunod na panahon [And most important, for future reference, because if it happened today there is a possibility that it might happen in the future],” he said.
Garcia again pressed the Commission on Elections to allow a system audit of its servers to determine whether or not the unauthorized script change in the servers produced more than just cosmetic results.
Marcos said the script change, done by a Smartmatic executive, may have eroded his lead over Robredo during the initial counting of ballots.
Robredo and President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will be proclaimed on Monday, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd said.
“The projected proclamation would be afternoon of Monday. It’s good we ended on a Friday so our staff could have the weekend to finish the Joint Committee report,” said Pimentel, head of the Senate panel in the Joint Canvass Committee.
Pimentel directed the Joint Committee Secretariat to prepare the joint panel report and present it by Monday for the signature of the members.
Marcos had aimed for the family’s biggest political victory since 1986 when a “People Power” uprising ended 20 years of the family’s rule.
“I think this election was arguably the best and probably last chance for the Marcoses to wrest back control of Malacañang,” De La Salle University international affairs and political science professor Richard Javad Heydarian said.
“Six years down the road, (the) Marcoses could face a very different zeitgeist with the shadow of defeat hanging over their shoulders,” Heydarian added.
“It (the loss) would make it that much harder for the Marcoses to regain power through elections,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Economic and Political Reforms in Manila, said.
Barring a reversal of the May 9 result, Marcos would have to wait for the 2019 mid-term elections to try and regain his senate seat, Casiple added.
Despite the loss, analysts are not ruling out Marcos’s presidential run when President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends in 2022.
Heydarian and Louie Checa Montemar, a De La Salle development studies lecturer, both said the Marcos family would remain a major force, at least in its traditional bailiwick of Ilocos Norte province but also as a presidential contender.
“The only way now to banish any immediate future threat of a Marcos comeback would be to live up to the promise of raising the (economic prospects of the) marginalized,” Montemar said.
This month the dictator’s widow, Imelda Marcos, swept to a third term in the House of Representatives representing Ilocos Norte province, while daughter Imee Marcos became provincial governor for the third straight time.