Comelec settles 'discrepancies' in Cotabato City COC
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday, January 25, settled reported "discrepancies" involving the certificate of canvass (COC) of Cotabato City in the recently concluded Bangsamoro plebiscite.
The Comelec, sitting as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers (NPBOC), a day earlier suspended the canvassing of the Cotabato City COC because of two reported discrepancies:
- Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the number of "no" votes in the Cotabato City COC and another election document – the Summary of Statement of Votes by Precinct (SSOVP) – did not match
- Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia said the COC listed a wrong "total number of voters who actually voted"
On the issue raised by Guanzon, the Comelec's audit group found that the SSOVP actually has two pages.
The number of "no" votes in the COC and the SSOVP did not match because Guanzon only looked at page one.
Guanzon had questioned on Thursday, January 24, why the "no" votes in the COC amounted to 24,994, but the SSOVP indicated only 22,507.
Consuelo Diola, commission secretary of the Comelec, explained that page one of the SSOVP indicates 22,507 "no" votes, while page two shows 2,487. Diola said adding pages one and two amounts to 24,994 "no" votes in the SSOVP, reflecting the contents of the COC.
"There are no discrepancies as far as the votes are concerned, your honor," Diola said.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas noted that "there has been no discrepancy" based on the Comelec audit group's report.
Defect in form, not substance
On the issue raised by Guia, the audit group noted "certain discrepancies in the number of registered voters, and the number of registered voters who actually voted."
These discrepancies had been earlier spotted in relation to the Cotabato City COC:
- The listing of 39,027 as the "total number of voters who actually voted," when the COC itself said 36,682 voted "yes" and 24,994 voted "no"
- The listing of 71,963 as the "total number of registered voters" in Cotabato City, when the Project of Precincts (POP), a document listing the number of voters and polling precincts, said there were 113,751 registered voters there
The audit group found that for certain clustered precincts, statements of votes "do not have any entry for the number of registered voters who actually voted," as the item was "left blank, making the data incomplete."
The audit group recommended "the approval of the correction sheets prepared by the tabulation group."
Abas said that upon deliberation by the Comelec, this discrepancy involving the number of voters "is hereby ordered as a formal defect."
"So in that case we will proceed with the canvass of the COC," he said.
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez explained to reporters that a formal defect means a defect in form, not substance.
The Comelec then completed the canvass of Cotabato City's COC, allowing the poll body to proceed to canvassing the rest of the COCs.
The Bangsamoro plebiscite on Monday, January 21, sought to determine if voters favor the creation of a more powerful Muslim region in the southern Philippines – the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM. (READ: What you need to know about the Bangsamoro plebiscite)
While seeking to end a decades-long Muslim rebellion in the southern Philippines, the proposed creation of the BARMM is fueling tensions especially in Cotabato City.
The recent developments at the Comelec add another layer to this already-complex situation. Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi, a staunch critic of the proposed BARMM, said she will file a manifestation about the supposed COC discrepancies, as she disputed her city's apparent "yes" vote in the plebiscite. – Rappler.com