Undervotes 'a non-issue,' canvassing co-chair says

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, one of the two heads of the canvassing committee in Congress, dismissed the issue of "undervotes" raised by the camp of Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

In an interview with reporters past 10 pm on Thursday, May 26, Pimentel pointed out that lawyers frequently mention "the concept of undervotes" during the canvassing proceedings in Congress.

Despite this, he said, candidates’ lawyers "are not objecting to the inclusion" of affected certificates of canvass (COCs) in the official tally.

"Hence, it is clearly a non-issue in the proceedings. Even the lawyers know this. That’s why they’re not objecting," said Pimentel, chair of the Senate panel in the joint canvassing committee in Congress. 

The Marcos camp said 3.2 million votes for vice president remain "unaccounted for", but the camp of Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Leni Robredo downplayed these so-called undervotes.

This comes as Marcos is caught in a tight vice presidential race with Robredo.

Marcos’ lawyer, George Garcia, said 14,000 of these undervotes came from the Ilocos region, the bailiwick of the senator. 

Garcia said their camp is not insinuating the said undervotes went to a particular candidate. Neither do they claim that undervoting is impossible, he said. 

Garcia: 'That's too big'

"Ang sinasabi namin, sana naman po maipaliwanag sa atin, at sana malaman natin, siguro kung hindi ngayon, kundi in the future, bakit nagkaro’n ng ganon. Napakalaki po no’n. That’s 3.2 million Filipinos," he said.

(What we’re saying is that we hope they can explain to us, and we hope to know, if not now, then in the future, why it came to be. That’s too big. That’s 3.2 million Filipinos.)

Garcia said putting the undervotes on record can help their camp in "whatever legal remedy" they might seek later.

"Kung saka-sakali na palarin kami o hindi kami palarin sa laban na ito, siguro po later masasabi namin sa inyo kung bakit namin ine-emphasize ang null votes sa bawa't isang COC na kina-canvass natin dito," Garcia said.

(If ever we become lucky or not in this battle, maybe later we can tell you why we’re emphasizing the null votes in each COC that we’re canvassing here.)

Robredo’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, questioned Garcia for always bringing up the issue of null votes. 

"Hindi ko nga malaman kung bakit pinag-iinitan ang mga undervotes na 'yan e," Macalintal said. (I really don’t know why they’re harping on those undervotes.)

Macalintal earlier said undervoting is normal in any election, and it does not necessarily mean electoral fraud.

"That really happens in elections because some voters really abstain for a particular position. It does not only happen in the case of the vice president; it happens to all positions from president down to the last position," Macalintal said. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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