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Hours before proclamation, 'whistleblowers' allege poll fraud

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Just 3 hours before the proclamation of the newly elected president and vice president on Monday, May 30, self-proclaimed whistleblowers spoke to journalists at the Senate on how they allegedly manipulated election results for Liberal Party (LP) candidates.

The 3 unidentified men, who claimed to be members of the bloc-voting Iglesia ni Cristo, said they had first-hand involvement in the operation to game the transmission of votes in favor of LP candidates, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, who ran for reelection.

The men were accompanied to the Senate by Pastor “Boy” Saycon, secretary general of the Council of Philippine Affairs (COPA), which was formed to protest against the Arroyo administration in the early 2000.

Without giving specifics, the witnesses said they were working for the local government of Quezon province, and were part of a group of 5 who worked upon the instructions of “high-ranking government official” who belongs to LP.

From a private building in Quezon, they supposedly prevented the vote-counting machines from transmitting votes to the Transparency Server of the Commission on Elections. They instead imported fixed number of votes from separate SD cards. The manipulated figures are then transmitted to the central servers by Smartmatic machines located at another floor in the building.

They did not present evidence during the press conference, but said they would produce them at the proper time and forum. 

Drilon, whom they accused of benefitting the most from the manipulated votes, refused to comment.

Malacañang, through Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, said accusers should be challenged to present proof.

Why only now?

Asked why they are making the revelation only 3 weeks after the elections, one of the men said, "Di na namin kayang tiisin ang pangyayari, kaya kami humingi ng tuloy kay Boy Saycon." (Our conscience can no longer bear what happened, so we asked for Boy Saycon's help.)

Their claims echoed the allegations of Marcos, who was overtaken by LP bet Leni Robredo in the vice presidential race, but Saycon denied their connection with the senator.

On May 23, during interpellation after his privilege speechMarcos mentioned receiving reports of fraud from whistleblowers.

"There are many [irregularities]. Too many for us to go through here. As I said earlier, I would speak in a proper time and proper place. We'll detail those irregularities, those discrepancies that we found and to back that up will be reports of the analysis, affidavits and statements of witnesses and many whistleblowers who have come forward and decided to come clean," Marcos said then.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, head of the Senate contingent in the National Board of Canvassers, had said that these allegations should be filed with the President Electoral Tribunal, which is the Supreme Court. 

Robredo was proclaimed as vice president-elect on Monday afternoon, May 30. 

Impossible claim?

The whistleblowers claimed that an additional 500,000 votes were manipulated for Robredo in Quezon province.

But Robredo said that this figure is impossible since it would mean her votes would have to start from the negative.

“Parang 'pag totoo 'yun, nagsimula ako sa negative, parang hindi siya makatotohanan,” she told reporters in a press briefing after her proclamation on Monday. (If that is true, I will have to start from negative [votes]. It seems impossible.)

Her legal counsel Romulo Macalintal, meanwhile, challenged Marcos’ camp to release evidence to prove his claim.

“I challenge him to prove it. Because if we got additional 500,000 votes, then the number of voters who actually voted would have exceeded,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Congress’ official count show that Robredo got 380,277 votes in Quezon while the total number of people who voted in the province was at 824,550. – with a report from Patty Pasion/Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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