Comelec defers senators' proclamation; blames delayed results on local protests

Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. of National Board of Canvassers said the board deferred the proclamation of the 12 winning senators blaming the snail-paced transmission of election results on protests at various local levels.(Bernard Testa/Interaksyon.com)

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 4:55PM) With tensions rising among parties and candidates, what with election results grinding to a crawl, the Commission on Elections on Wednesday deferred the proclamation of winning senators, even as it tried to explain the slow transmission of results.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., briefing reporters after the poll body sitting as the National Board of Canvassers decided on the postponement, blamed the snail's pace transmission of election results on protests at various local levels.

The Comelec directed municipal and provincial boards of canvassers to fast-track sending of data for the national races even in places where there are local-level protests.

The NBC said it had added only 21 of the 304 certificates of canvass that indicate the number of votes from provinces, cities, towns, and overseas voting centers.

The Comelec is rushing a resolution directing municipal boards of canvassers to transmit results for the senatorial and party-list races to the provincial board of canvassers.

The latter will then transmit as well immediately to the NBC, the result of these national positions even as they continue to resolve numerous protests at the lower-level races.

“We will just direct the municipal boards of canvassers to immediately transmit results for the senatorial and party-list races to the provincial boards of canvassers while resolving various issues in their localities,” Brillantes said.

Political groups react

Political camps reacted differently to the Comelec move, though they supported the poll body’s decision. Team PNoy urged Comelec to at least proclaim those occupying the top slots in the Senate race, whose rankings can no longer be affected by the data still not canvassed.

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) sought a bigger inquiry.

The resolution being rushed will supplement Comelec Resolution No. 9700 and No. 9700-A which lowered the threshold in the count of votes cast, a move announced on Tuesday to give way to the proclamation of local winners. Brillantes had explained this was meant to defuse tension in at least 50 spots where local counts were becoming testy.

In the earlier resolution, the Commission allows a proclamation only if the lowered threshold will not adversely affect the results.

Earlier, the poll body announced the postponement of the proclamation of 12 winning senators, saying it added only 21 of the 304 certificates of canvass that indicate the number of votes from provinces, cities, towns, and overseas voting centers.

Brillantes said the delayed transmission was caused by protests from losing candidates at the local level.

“We are still analyzing what is happening in the field. But we have learned that the transmission of municipal CoC (Certificate of Canvass) to the provincial boards of canvassers is delayed, which prohibits the transmission of the PBOC to the NBC,” Brillantes said.

The Comelec, including the National Support Center and Technical Department of the poll body, is studying alternative solutions to the problems including the sending of teams to collect data from various municipal boards of canvassers.

"We are trying to study if we can send diskettes to the municipal boards of canvassers to physically get the results and bring these to the NBC to fast-track the canvassing, but we will wait for the completion of the electronic transmission before we will proclaim a substantial number of candidates,” Brillantes said.

Brillantes said there are technical issues in the transmission of results but refused to discuss these public.

Meanwhile, Brillantes assured the public there will be no manipulation of results whatsoever as a result of the  slow transmission.

“It has been two days after the election, I hope they won’t say there was manipulation. Note that in 2010, it took five days after the election to proclaim the first nine senators, and the rest, in 3 to 8 days more after the elections,” Brillantes said.

UNA alarmed by low transmission from ARMM

UNA expressed alarm on Wednesday over the delay in transmission of the CoCs to the Comelec-NBC, and backed the poll body’s decision to defer the proclamation of senators.

"Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA campaign manager, also called for an audit of the remaining data to check if they have remained intact.

"Let's not proclaim the winners yet until we get to the bottom of things.  Even if we have candidates who are in the winning  circle, it doesn't matter because this is about the integrity of the elections, we need clean and honest results," Tiangco said in a phone interview.

Marikina Representative Romero Federico Quimbo, spokesman of the administration coalition Team PNoy, said they gathered that the delay was "in part technical and in part due to protests."

"Regardless of the reason, we support the Comelec's efforts to address these problems.  We encourage it to fast-track the proclamation of senators whose standing will no longer be affected in the transmitted results.  It will help ease the tension of the concerned parties," Quimbo said in a text message.

Tiangco said they had sought an explanation from the Comelec since Tuesday night, when they observed the slow pace of the canvassing due to the slow transmission of results. On Tuesday night, the Comelec-NBC had received provincial certificates of canvass (COCs) only from eight places.

"What is especially alarming is that less than 20 percent of the data of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) has been transmitted," Tiangco said.

The transmission problem bugged both the Comelec-NBC, which is canvassing the national races; and the watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) which is doing the unofficial count for all races. A separate report by InterAksyon.com on Tuesday showed that while PCOS data transmission to the PPCRV server had already averaged 80 percent and more for Metro Manila and other key cities, the ones from certain Mindanao provinces like Lanao del Sur---notoriously slow when elections were not yet automated---still came in truckles, averaging from just 11 percent to 30 percent.

Tiangco said even discounting the technical problems for transmission, the situation was cause for worry. "I have talked to our IT (information technology) experts and they said that even if there are protests, the transmission of the data from the machines should continue."

Tiangco urged the Comelec to look closely into the matter and ensure that the results that have yet to be transmitted have not been tampered with. 

Meanwhile, Brillantes said the Comelec en banc is looking for ways to transmit the results of the senatorial elections through other means, as in diskettes. 

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