MANILA, Philippines – An ex-congressman claimed on Wednesday, October 25, that "discrepancies" in the vote count for the 2016 vice presidential race were found during proceedings to resolve a local election protest in Cebu City.
In a media forum in San Juan City, former Biliran representative Glenn Chong said that both defeated VP candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr and Vice President Leni Robredo got lower votes in the machine count versus the manual checking (or revision) of official ballots.
This was reflected in a "random statistics report" that Chong got a copy of. The said document showed the results for the VP race in 40 select precincts in Cebu City, where the revision of votes in the election protest of losing mayoral candidate Michael Rama versus incumbent mayor Tomas Osmeña took place.
The report was based on election returns – printed by the vote-counting machines after scanning the ballots – and the votes after the physical counting of ballot marks.
Chong said Marcos' vote "discrepancy" was bigger than Robredo's. In 14 out of 40 precincts that showed a discrepancy, the total votes for Marcos in the election returns was 53 votes less than in the physical count. In Robredo's case, the difference was only 13.
"For us, for me, there can be no other explanation, that this was a manipulation," said Chong.
"Whether the machine got it wrong or there was cheating," added Chong in a mix of Filipino and English, "the machine count still wasn't right. Because when you 'extrapolate' it, there's a big difference between the actual vote count and the machine count."
Robredo won in Cebu (plus Lapu-Lapu City) and Cebu City, getting a combined 817,052 votes, versus Marcos' 310,054 votes. (READ: Leni 'stole' the vice presidency? The data doesn't say so)
Asked about whether this would help Marcos in his VP election protest, Chong said that Cebu City and Cebu province are in the protest, but not among the "pilot" areas.
A protestant should prove his or her case first in at most 3 pilot areas, before the inspection of votes proceeds to the rest of the areas in the protest. (READ: Presidential Electoral Tribunal: What happens to a protest?)
In Marcos' case, his pilot provinces are Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental. (READ: Bongbong vs Leni: 2016 'election fingerprints' in possible recount areas)
Marcos lost to Robredo in the 6-person VP race in May 2016 by only 263,473 votes. After the elections, Marcos contested Robredo's victory through an election protest.
Chong then claimed that the source of the "random statistics report" was former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr, who commented on Chong's Facebook post about the said document.
"If it were not for Brillantes, then we wouldn't have been able to know it. In a way, I thank him," said Chong. "Binuking niya sarili niya na siya 'yung source (He declared himself as the source), and that document becomes credible."
Brillantes disclosed in his comment that his law firm was Rama's counsel for the electoral protest in Cebu City. He also said he "specifically instructed our revisors watchers who also watch the vice-presidential votes."
But Brillantes, after checking available documents, said he can "assure BBM [nickname of Marcos] whom I am also supporting that there is no supposed manipulations being made."
Otherwise, Brillantes said he would have reported it directly to Marcos or to lawyer George Garcia, "with whom I have always been coordinating on the BBM protest."
The ex-poll chief also said that it is "most absurd" for Chong to talk about Cebu City results when the city as well as Cebu province are not among Marcos' pilot areas in the VP protest.
"So let us not believe those are trying to muddle the issues like the 'great' Mr. Chong," said Brillantes. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.