Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, on Thursday, Aug. 7, said he would call for an inquiry in aid of legislation into the accuracy and integrity of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that were used in the 2013 local and senatorial elections.
Pimentel cited the latest allegations of electoral fraud when a manual counting of votes in the clustered precincts of two barangays in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija “showed a big disparity” with the official results churned out by the PCOS machines.
In a case filed by Bernardo Aranas and Arlan Esteban against the Commission on Elections municipal registrar, it was found out that senatorial candidate Bro. Eduardo “Eddie” Villanueva had tallied more votes than those officially counted by the PCOS machines.
A decision penned by Judge Celso Baguio of the Regional Trial Court of Gapan City showed Villanueva getting 900 votes in the manual counting in Clustered Precincts Nos. 19, 29, and 30 of Barangays Pias and Concepcion against the official Comelec tally of only 781 votes.
“The error of 119 votes per precinct of not more than 1,000 votes per precinct is too high.” said Pimentel.
The petitioners alleged that they actively campaigned for Villanueva, attended rallies and went on house-to-house campaign, in the course of which, they received assurances of support from the electorates.
They intimated that the PCOS results were “mathematically improbable because the votes counted for Villanueva in said clustered precincts were less than the number of herein plaintiffs”, represented by the petitioners in the case.
“What made the result even more unbelievable was the fact that it appeared to indicate that no one among the registered voters they met in their campaign trail and who vowed to vote for their candidate made good of their commitments” the petitioners argued.
They said further that their doubts were bolstered by media reports that the results of the election for senators had been pre-programmed under the alleged “60-30-10 scheme” to ensure that certain favored candidates would land in the winning circle.
To validate their belief, the petitioners conducted a series of public consultations, the results of which revealed that the number of voters who actually cast their votes for Villanueva were far greater than the votes tallied by the PCOS machines.
Pimentel said that free and fair elections are the keystone of any democracy and that the true will of the electorate must be protected at all times.
He expressed alarm over the outcome of the manual counting which showed that the PCOS machines produced erroneous results, betraying the true will of the electorates in those two barangays of the town of Gen. Tinio in Nueva Ecija.
Pimentel said he will file a senate resolution to dig deeper into the controversy, especially now that the Comelec is preparing what system will be used in the presidential elections in 2016 amidst doubts on the integrity of the PCOS machines.
The last automated elections were not spared of charges of cheating and vote-buying even as cases of malfunctioning PCOS machines and lack of memory cards marred voting in some precincts nationwide.