Bishops deny call for Philippine poll result suspension

Demand to delay announcing of winners in lieu of a probe into fraud was one priest's personal opinion, they say
Bishops deny call for Philippine poll result suspension

Activists hold a march in Manila on May 17 to protest what they claimed was massive fraud during the May 13 mid-term elections in the Philippines. (Photo by Maria Tan)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has clarified that it has not made calls for the suspension of the proclamation of winning senatorial candidates in this week's national elections.

Conference president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, said church leaders did not issue any call or make any demands as reported in local media.

"If that kind of news is circulating — that the CBCP has made such a call — that is again pure fake news," the prelate said in a statement.

As reported by ucanews.com on May 16, Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action arm of the bishops' conference, issued a personal statement a day earlier calling for a postponement of the announcement.

The priest said it should only go ahead when allegations of vote buying and ballot-counting machine irregularities are investigated and resolved.

Civil society groups have supported Father Gariguez's call for an "independent and impartial investigation" of the alleged fraud and manipulation of the elections.

The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., a network of civil society organizations and faith-based institutions, issued a statement demanding "accountability and transparency" from the poll body.

It said glitches in 1,699 voting counting machines and the malfunctioning of almost a thousand SD (Secure Digital) cards "reek of inefficiency and unpreparedness."

"We will not rest until a proper investigation of these allegations of a fraudulent election and conspiracy is initiated," said the group.

In his statement, Bishop Valles said Father Gariguez was not speaking for the bishops' conference.

Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops’ Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said the call for the suspension was Father Gariguez’s personal opinion.

Commission on Elections spokesman, James Jimenez, said a "formal petition" must be filed before the poll body can delay announcing the winners.

No such petition has been received, he said.

The church-backed election watchdog, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, has also distanced itself from Father Gariguez's call.

"As far as we are concerned that’s not our position," said the watchdog’s chairwoman, Myla Villanueva.

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Youth groups, meanwhile, held what they called a "Black Friday Protest" on May 17 to denounce what they described was an "ongoing campaign to magically rig the elections in the administration's favor."

Sarah Elago of the youth group Kabataan said they have received "a multitude of reports questioning the authenticity of the May 13 elections."

Among the complaints were alleged partisan campaigning by police and military groups, errors and anomalies during the conduct of the elections, and a lack of transparency in the counting of votes, among others.

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