10 Senate bets gained from errors in canvassing–watchdog

By Nikko Dizon
Last updated 08:59pm (Mla time) 07/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines–An election watchdog said that 10 senatorial candidates, seven of whom were from Team Unity, became the “top gainers” from the vote discrepancies between the tallies of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) in the May midterm elections.


Halalang Marangal, or Halal, identified the beneficiaries, in order, as Ralph Recto, Manuel “Manny” Villar, Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Prospero Pichay, Mike Defensor, Vicente “Tito” Sotto, Joker Arroyo, and Luis “Chavit” Singson.


The biggest loser was TU’s Jamalul Kiram III, Sultan of Sulu, who lost votes in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), his home region, as well as in other provinces where his partymates won.


But Halal said this did not mean that the candidates who gained from the discrepancies cheated.


“Halal emphasizes that the discrepancies identified here do not automatically mean cheating by the candidates who apparently gained votes from the discrepancies,” the group said in its audit report number 4 released over the weekend.


“We call attention to these discrepancies so that they may be investigated, the causes identified, and the solutions formulated. In this process of investigation which official bodies will hopefully initiate, discrepancies due to electoral fraud may then be uncovered, which will hopefully lead to prosecution of suspects and punishment of the guilty,” the group said in its 15-page report.


Halal’s convenors include former senator Wigberto Tanada, Jr., former Comelec commissioner Mehol Sadain, election fraud whistleblower and retired military general Francisco Gudani, and IT specialist Roberto Verzola.


For its audit report, Halal examined the provincial and city certificates of canvass (CoCs) as well as the statements of votes (SoVs).


The election watchdog said the vote discrepancies between the Comelec and Namfrel were attributed to several factors, and from which the candidates ultimately benefitted, or lost.


Halal said there was laxity or negligence of Comelec officials who submitted and accepted incomplete or wrong reports on voter turnout, the statistical and circumstantial evidence indicating that the results from Maguindanao were fraudulent, despite which was accepted by the National Board of Canvassers, and the abnormally high voter turn out in Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan, among others.


Halal said that in one third of all the cities and provinces canvasseed by the local Comelec offices, essential information were missing, such as the number of precincts actually tallied and the number of voters who actually voted were missing or plain wrong in the reports.


Halal said the Namfrel quick count group admitted having their own data problem.


Halal said Namfrel reports did not include the number of voters who actually voted.


“Although it has shown a huge improvement since 2004 by making public its provincial breakdowns of votes and precincts in 2007, Namfrel still tends to overstate in some provinces the number of precincts tallied,” Halal said.


Namfrel also admitted making some clerical errors.


From the CoCs and SoVs, Halal discovered–after all the gains and losses have been added–that even if Recto lost in the elections, he gained 275,800 votes because of the discrepancies, while Villar got 268,000, followed by Zubiri with 257,100 votes.


Other beneficiaries from the vote discrepancies were topnotcher Loren Legarda with 130,700, Tessie Aquino-Oreta with 91,800 votes, Edgardo Angara had 55,400 and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III had 25,300.


Halal said Senator-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Genuine Opposition was “the fifth biggest loser of votes, and the biggest loser among the winners.”


Aquino lost a total of 253,700 in 50 provinces and cities and gained only 90,900 in 44 provinces and cities.


Meanwhile, Kiram lost a total of 255,400 votes in 71 provinces and cities, and gained a total of 72,300 votes in 21 provinces and cities.


Halal noted that Kiram led in in five ARMM provinces under Namfrel but was only second in two of them when the Comelec canvassing was over.

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