By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Saturday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to probe the allegations that ballots for the May 13 midterm polls have been pre-shaded.
The Senate chief made the appeal as he aired concern over the claims circulating on social media about the supposed pre-shaded ballots.
“May mga nakikita ako sa Facebook na ‘yong OFWs [nagrereklamo] sa VCMs, printing tapos ‘yong balota, shaded na. Medyo nakakanerbyos ‘yan (I have been seeing posts on Facebook that overseas Filipino workers are complaining about the vote counting machines, printing, and their ballots already shaded),” Sotto said in a radio interview Saturday.
He recalled questioning the integrity of the results of 2016 national elections after he exposed last year the supposed manipulation of the automated elections through the early transmission of votes in some areas, and the access of a United States-based computing service to the poll servers, among others.
Sotto said the Comelec should immediately look into the reports, although he stressed that the claims should be backed by proper evidence.
“Comelec ang dapat kumilos diyan. Dapat imbestigahan nila agad ‘yang mga narereklamo, nagsasabi nyan,” he appealed.
“At ‘yong mga nagrereklamo naman, para hindi kayo mapagbintangang ‘fake news’ lang kayo, bigyan niyo ng ebidensya ang Comelec. Dahil ano iimbestigahan ng Comelec kung puro Facebook lang ‘yan,” he added.
He said the Senate, or his office, may also accommodate complaints so he could relay it to the Comelec.
Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr. on Thursday denied reports that the ballots were pre-shaded with ultraviolet (UV) ink for certain candidates.
Tolentino said the video posted online was “staged” as the ballot featured was not official.
The Comelec earlier warned the public against engaging in “cowardly and dishonorable acts of dishonesty” that tend to erode public trust in the mechanisms and processes of democratic elections. The poll body said it is an election offense and will be punished.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan also appealed to concerned government agencies to act on reports that Filipinos abroad have not received their ballots yet despite the ongoing overseas absentee voting.
“We share the anxiety of a number of our kababayans abroad who could not yet vote because the ballots have not reached the voters,” Pangilinan, who is president of Liberal Party and campaign manager of Otso Diretso, said in a statement.
He cited reports that said the ballots could not be delivered to OAVs because the DFA lacked funds for its postage.
But Pangilinan said the problem was “basic”. He added that the fund needed for the sending was ” minimal and could have been immediately provided.”
“Every day of delay is a cause for the disenfranchisement of our voters, which is a violation of their right to suffrage,” Pangilinan said.