Philippine watchdog seeks answers to election count delay

Losing opposition candidates condemn government 'rigging' of midterm elections
Philippine watchdog seeks answers to election count delay

Elections officials in Manila present to the national board of canvassers the result of absentee voting conducted at the Vatican on May 13 Philippine midterm elections. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

A church-based poll watchdog has called on the Philippines' Commission on Elections to explain in detail a seven-hour delay in the transmission of unofficial election results during last week's midterm elections.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, or PPCRV, said the poll body has to explain the delay amid calls to suspend the declaration of winners of the May 13 elections.

The faith-based group Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. earlier joined calls for an independent probe into technical glitches that marred the elections, fueling suspicions of fraud.

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

The poll agency has blamed the delay on a "bottleneck" caused by an avalanche of data from the regions hours after the conduct of the elections.

The May 13 elections marked the fourth time the country had used automated balloting.

"The [council] will not stop," said Myla Villanueva, the poll watchdog’s chairwoman. She said her organization will continue to seek the truth over what happened.

Villanueva said the PPCRV is "not in a position to declare or conclude why the bottleneck happened, just that it did."

When asked during a media briefing on May 20 whether the church-based watchdog detected fraud during the count, Villanueva said: "We matched all we matched. Please draw your own conclusions from that."

Losing opposition candidates, meanwhile condemned what they described was the "government’s rigging" of the elections and called streets protests.

"A strong feeling of dissatisfaction is currently felt by the nation as this government once again trampled upon our democratic rights," read a statement from the so-called "nationalist bloc."

It cited "massive reports of errors and malfunctions" of the automated elections system accompanied by widespread vote buying, and the use of government resources to favor administration candidates.

"Given all of these, the 2019 election results are far from credible and certainly tainted with fraud," it added.

On May 21, the Commission on Elections once again postponed announcing the winning senators because the board of canvassers is awaiting election returns from abroad.

"In order to make sure that there will be no changes in the rankings of elected officials, we need to get that squared away. So not today," said commission spokesman James Jimenez.

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