Cheating allegations mar national councilors’ league election
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Allegations of cheating and voting software glitches marred the election of the national officers of the thousands-strong Philippine Councilors League (PCL) on Thursday, February 27.
Some league members accused the camp of current PCL national chairman Danilo Dayanghirang of Davao City, who was running for reelection, of rigging the election against challenger Jesciel Richard Salceda of Polangui, Albay.
A failure of election was declared during the event at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, while an ad hoc committee was formed to coordinate with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for a new election date, which should be within 60 days from Thursday.
The current PCL national board formed a 3-person committee to investigate the failure of the automated poll and recommend a course of action. Chosen for the task were councilors Raul Corro of Muntinlupa City, Raymond Alvin Garcia of Cebu City, and Darwin Icay of Taguig City, all lawyers.
What happened? A video posted on Facebook by Albay Representative Joey Salceda, uncle of the candidate from Albay, showed councilors testing the voting application just before the election started. They showed surprise that, after voting for Jesciel Salceda, the vote confirmation page showed that the vote went to Dayanghirang.
Councilors posted videos of the same incident, taken from another angle, as comments on the posts on the PCL’s Facebook page.
Amadea Aquino, who introduced herself as a “poll watcher” from Davao City, tagged Dayanghirang in a Facebook post, where she said no election occurred – therefore, no cheating was committed – precisely because during the testing, glitches in the system were uncovered. She cited an example, where vote for one candidate for another position went to another candidate.
The PCL consists of councilors from the country’s 146 cities and 1,488 municipalities. It has more than 17,000 members, who subscribe to the “Public Service Above Self” principle and, based on their creed, have sworn to pass local laws “that redound to the general welfare of [our] constituents in their pursuit for happiness, peace, and prosperity.”
During their campaigns for the PCL chairmanship, the two candidates invoked support from political heavyweights.
Dayanghirang, in his campaign posts, used photos of him with fellow Davaoeño President Rodrigo Duterte. Salceda got the endorsement of Senator Manny Pacquiao, as well as the support of outgoing PCL president Luis “Chavit” Singson. A few delegates told Rappler that local chapters of the Iglesia ni Cristo requested them to support Salceda.
System glitches? There were varying estimates on how many members had registered to attend and vote during the 3-day national convention, with some claiming up to more than 11,000. Congressman Salceda claimed that his nephew had the commitment of more than 8,000 of the registered members and could have easily beaten Dayanghirang.
The councilor from Davao City has yet to address the cheating allegations, but he posted a statement earlier on Thursday. He said, “The electronic voting system is currently facing technical glitches,” and that issues were being resolved by the election commission, DILG representatives, and the league’s information technology committee.
“It can be noted that I have relieved myself from the preparations of (sic) the event since day 1 to avoid being biased and uphold delicadeza. Will leave it now at the hands of DILG to address this matter,” Dayanghirang said.
The PCL Facebook page instead posted photos of alleged “victims in the massive harassment at the PCL assembly” while reporting the incident to the Pasay City police. The post was quickly swarmed by comments from councilors, accusing the current PCL leadership of making false claims. They were also demanding refund of the public funds they spent to attend the convention – reportedly between P10,000 and P15,000 each, excluding airfare.
At past 8 pm Thursday, the PCL posted on Facebook:
PCL National Elections Officially Postponed due to failure of election caused by a glitch of the election software system as investigated by the DILG and approved by the National Board and due to time constraint as well.
Sorry for the inconvenience everyone.
What’s at stake? Shortly after every election, local officials form their respective leagues according to position, from barangay chairperson to provincial governors. They then elect municipal or city chapter officers, then provincial officers, then national officers.
Whoever is elected president in a chapter gets an ex-officio seat in the local legislative body of the next higher level of local government, except in the case of independent cities. The president of a municipal councilors’ league, for example, will have a seat in the provincial board.
The PCL – like any league representing a particular local position – serves as a lobbying arm for additional powers, funds, programs, and trainings for its members. It also provides the national government, candidates for national elections, and even international institutions a network where they can present and push their agenda, inevitably turning the league officers into power brokers.
What the DILG has to say: The DILG, through its spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, said on Friday, February 28, it would await the PCL national board’s announcement of a new date after the failure of election due to “technical issues.”
As a member of the league’s election commission, the DILG reiterated that it’s “committed to the conduct of a free and honest election for the incoming set of PCL national officers.”
This was what happened, according to the DILG:
The scheduled election yesterday (February 27) followed the protocol and opened on time but was faced with delays attributed to the failure of Converge IT Solutions, the contracted systems provider, to deliver a fully functioning automated election system.
Dry runs were conducted to ensure the efficiency of the vote-counting machines but subsequent concerns persisted such as vote duplication of certain registered voters, and issues on the connectivity of majority of the voting terminals. There were also various concerns on the provided voting terminals limiting the access of persons with disabilities, and even persons of poor eyesight.