Lawyers for Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. have questioned the unusually high number of “undervotes” in the vice presidential race as shown in Certificates of Canvass (COCs) opened on Wednesday, the first day of the official tally by Congress.
“We have accounted ‘undervotes’ Your Honor, that’s totaling the votes cast for the Vice President vis-à-vis the votes cast by the voters, it would appear that such number was discovered from the COC Your Honor that totals 623,174,” one of the lawyers, George Garcia, said on Thursday.
The discovery confirmed Marcos’ earlier complaint that 3.3 million “undervotes” were discovered in their own quick count, Garcia added.
Because of questions involving the “undervotes,” only 45 of the 48 opened COC were officially included in the canvass.
Garcia said the three questioned COC were from the provinces of Laguna, Ilocos Sur and Davao del Norte.
These were found to have differences with the electronically-transmitted COC.
As part of the investigation, the Joint Canvassing Committee ordered the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) in the three provinces to explain the discrepancies.
Citing as an example, Garcia said the first electronically-transmitted COC from Davao del Norte did not conform with the succeeding printed four COC.
Election watchdogs and Information Technology experts earlier said “undervotes” do not usually exceed one percent of the total votes cast.
In the 2016 elections, there should be not more than 400,000 such votes at 81 percent voter turnout.
The camp of Rep. Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party (LP), howeve, downplayed the reported “undervotes.”
Romulo Macalintal, the lead counsel for Robredo, said the issue is no cause for alarm.
“He is saying that there are around 600,000 ‘under votes.’ But this should not be a cause for alarm because it does not indicate irregularity. Not all people cast their vote for Vice President,” Macalintal added.
He cited the Supreme Court ruling in Mathay vs. Castelo that such abstaining from voting for a particular post is a regular undertaking.
“That’s why I made a clarification that the voters need not worry. This does not mean poll rigging and is insignificant in the canvassing of voters. That happens in an automated or a manual election where people just remain neutral or abstain from voting for a particular position,” Macalintal said.
He expressed confidence that the discrepancies in the three COC can be explained by the PBOC, particularly Laguna where it took the board twice before successfully transmitting the COC.
Marcos earlier appealed to the Commission on Elections to allow his own IT experts to audit the central and transparency servers of the poll body with the participation of other interested parties.
He said only a system audit would show if a script change done by Smartmatic had triggered the sudden decrease of his almost one million lead in the evening of May 9 during the quick count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
But the Comelec deferred action on his petition.
Abakada Party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, campaign adviser of Marcos, called the poll body’s decision “unfortunate.”
“We could not understand how the system audit could affect the official canvass because all election returns have been transmitted and all COC have been printed out for canvass,” dela Cruz said.
“The integrity of the whole 2016 elections is on the line here and we do not want unresolved questions and issues to linger after the proclamation. It is our position that whoever will be proclaimed Vice President by the NBOC [National Board of Canvassers] deserves a clear and unequivocal mandate once he assumes the position. We cannot allow all doubts to linger on our new Vice President which would diminish the stature of his office,” he noted in a statement.
“We will take the next legal step to ventilate our request for the sake of truth and for the millions of Filipinos who cast their votes despite the odds and limitations on May 9,” dela Cruz said.