By Vince Alvic A. F. Nonato, Reporter

Poe camp questions canvassing instructions

Posted on April 11, 2016

THE LEGAL TEAM of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Joseph G. Escudero has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain its “irregular” instructions on the canvassing of votes.

In a 13-page letter dated Apr. 7, GPC Legal Team Secretary-General George Erwin M. Garcia questioned the Comelec’s requirement for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) to deliver the main SD card to the canvassing center, instead of simply transmitting the election returns (ERs) electronically.

Mr. Garcia specifically questioned Comelec Resolution No. 8809’s Items III-A (importing of precinct results) and IV (generation and printing of receipts). He said these directives defeat the purpose of the automated election law because they add more steps in the process of sending the results.

He argued that the BEIs could just have transmitted the ERs electronically to the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) and not have to physically send the SD cards for uploading.

ERs refer to the votes scanned and tallied by the vote-counting machines, while the CCS is the system transmitting the returns to the municipal, provincial, and national boards of canvassers, all the way to Congress.

While the 2010 elections only mandated electronic transmission, Mr. Garcia noted that Comelec Resolution No. 8809 required the surrender of SD cards so the votes may be included in the canvassing.

He noted the resolution prevents the printing of the certificate of canvass until the data from the SD card are imported to the CCS. This made the physical delivery of SD cards a mandatory condition before the winners can be proclaimed.

“This necessarily means that the BEI, just like during manual elections, are now required to immediately surrender the main SD card to the Board of Canvassers so that the results will be included in the canvassing of votes despite the fact of successful transmission of the results,” read Mr. Garcia’s letter.

He said the resolution causes undue delay to the election because it “effectively and unnecessarily lengthens the canvassing and consolidation process without stating... the rationale for such instruction.”

Mr. Garcia also said the resolution failed to address possible issues that may arise, such as the question of which among the electronically transmitted ERs and the SD cards would prevail in case of discrepancy.

The resolution also failed to indicate what to do if the main SD card gets lost, stolen, or corrupted.

“Are [the Board of Canvassers] required to proceed with the proclamation based on the electronically transmitted ERs or are they mandated to entirely disregard the same and surrender all election paraphernalia more specifically the CCS to the main Comelec office perhaps for investigation?,” the letter asked.

Mr. Garcia also criticized the Comelec for not consulting the public and the stakeholders regarding the 2016 canvassing instructions.

“With all due respect, therefore, it is the honest belief of the undersigned that said directive suffers from vagueness and irregularity, nay illegality, considering its detrimental effect on the quality, speed and efficiency of the electoral process as mandated by law and its apparent tendency to open the floodgates to numerous election machinations, further aggravated by the lack of any clear rules or further instructions concerning the procedure, as well as of any remedies that may be available to the proper party/parties,” the letter concluded.

Ms. Poe and Mr. Escudero, both independent candidates, are running together for president and vice-president.