By Gillian M. Cortez, Reporter

THE National Board of Canvassers (NBoC) convened on Tuesday, canvassing the first few certificate of canvass (CoC) from the midterm elections held Monday.

The CoCs, including from abroad, canvassed as of this reporting Tuesday late afternoon are from Mandaluyong (4th District), Las Piñas, Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu, Athens (Greece), Makati (4th District), Singapore, Camiguin, Marinduque, Agusan Del Norte, Sorsogon, Ilocos Norte, Bahrain, Muntinlupa, Southern Leyte, and Iligan City in Lanao del Norte.

Sitting on the NBoC board are Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sheriff A. Abas and the poll body’s commissioners Al A. Parreño, Luie Tito F. Guia, Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, Socorro B. Inting, Marlon S. Casquejo and Antonio T. Kho Jr.

Comelec on Tuesday said it is also mulling over charges against the developers of the Automated Election System (AES). “We’re reviewing with the law department…Let’s see if there are possible violations of contract,” Mr. Abas said, in connection with errors in the transparency server Monday night.

Mr. Casquejo also noted that the vote-counting machines (VCMs) used were the same ones used in the 2016 elections.

Smartmatic-TIM supplied the VCMs while S1 Technologies Incorporated provided the SD cards.

As of Tuesday morning, 961 VCMs are 961 out of more than 85,000 were reported defective; and 1,665 SD Cards out of a total 55,769 were also reported defective.

Mr. Abas still called the midterm elections “successful,” amid reports of malfunctioning VCMs as well as vote-buying.

“Wala kaming failure of election na natanggap….For us, isang magandang milestone ‘yun (We have no reports of failure of election [from any area]…For us, that is a good milestone),” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

For its part, election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Tuesday began the manual encoding of election returns (ER) for the parallel counting of votes.

PPCRV Board Member Arwin A. Serrano said they have received around 8,000 election returns as of late Tuesday afternoon, most of these from Metro Manila and parts of Cavite.

He also said the ERs from other parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will have to be carried to their office via air transportation.

“Today, siguro lalagpas na tayo ng two-digit, baka ano na ‘yan 12,000 to 15,000 bago matapos ang araw na ‘to. Tomorrow we’re expecting mga 50% or more,” Mr. Serrano told reporters. (Today, maybe we can get past two digits, with around 12,000 to 15,000 (election returns) before the day ends. Tomorrow we’re expecting more than 50% or more).

PPCRV, which has some 300 volunteers, is tasked to encode copies of election returns they received and validate these results from the transparency server.

The National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), for its part, said Tuesday it ruled out the possibility of hacking due to the delay in the transmission of unofficial election results over problems in the Comelec’s transparency server.

“There’s a big possibility that there was no hacking and the reason for that, when they started debugging, they know where to check, they know where to fix it,” Fernando “JR” Contreras Jr. of NAMFREL’s System Committee, said in a briefing on Tuesday.

“If you look at the timing, it was relatively quick, however, the negligence in testing is a different issue.”

The remarks followed a 7-hour delay in the transmission of election results to election watchdogs and media outlets. Operations were resumed at past 1:00 a.m., Tuesday.

“What can be done by the public to make sure the integrity of the election remains? One thing we can do, there are 30 copies printed per VCM, if any group has a copy of that they can verify it right now with the publicly available data,” Mr. Contreras said.

NAMFREL Secretary General Eric Jude O. Alvia suggested cross-checking the precincts with the election returns.

“There’s still the RMA (Random Manual Audit), I think the public has to look into those limited 715 precincts and just cross-check with the transmitted election returns,” he said.

“Another is that what we’re trying to do here in NAMFREL is that whatever VCMs that have been flagged and identified by us that were failing would be tracked for transmission points. We want to make sure that whatever vote that was cast in the precincts were processed and transmitted.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP), in its update Tuesday morning, said it has monitored a total of 225 incidents of vote-buying and arrested 441 violators. and eight rescued minors.

“Una, automated na kasi ang election natin (Our election is already automated). Seemingly, sabi nga ng Comelec, ‘yung mga VCMs natin ay incorruptible, hindi mo kaya i-manipulate (Seemingly, Comelec said that our VCMs are incorruptible, you cannot manipulate it. So the tendency ng mga kumakandidato (of the candidates) is they go directly to the voters,” said PNP chief Gen. Oscar D. Albayalde in a press briefing on Tuesday. — with Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Charmaine A. Tadalan, and Vince Angelo C. Ferreras