Sotto sees no reason to doubt the results of the 2019 elections

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Despite glitches and delays in the voting process, Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes that there is no reason to doubt the results of the May 13 midterm elections.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Senate chief on Thursday said he still finds the recently-concluded polls credible even as he raised concern over the malfunction of vote-counting machines (VCMs).

“Hindi mo maaalis na may mag-isip, pero tignan mo ‘yong percentages ng mga nagkaroon ng problema sa VCMs, sa SD cards (Some will doubt, but we should look at the percentages of those that encountered problems in the VCMs and SD cards),” Sotto said during the regular Kapihan sa Senado.

Sotto agreed with the officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that the faulty equipment only make up a small percentage of the total number of equipment used during Monday’s elections.

“Mukhang tama ‘yong sinasabi ni Commissioner [Rowena] Guanzon, Chairman [Shariff] Abas. Ang liit ng percentage ng nagkaproblema, kaya lang matingkad because it’s on social media, and the mainstream media usually picks it up,” he said.

“But in general, kung tutuusin (if you consider that), I think the elections were credible,” Sotto said.

Abas on Tuesday said 961 VCMs, or 1.1 percent, of the total 85,000 suffered glitches last Monday, while only 1.9 percent, or 1,665 of the total number of SD cards were defective.

As far as he is concerned, Sotto said he was satisfied with how the Comelec handled this year’s polls. The officials had been “very proactive” and “very forceful” with their job, he said.

Congressional probe

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, on the other hand, admitted that the glitches that marred Monday’s polls is already affecting the integrity of the country’s automated elections system.

“Marami na akong kausap, medyo nawawalan na ng tiwala sa sistema. Ang pakiramdam nila, mayroon nang nakakabisado sa sistema, at na namamanipulate na (Many are starting to lose trust with our elections system. They feel that someone had memorized the system and had been manipulating it),” Pimentel said in a phone interview with reporters Thursday.

He said the joint Senate and House oversight committee on the automated elections system (JCOC-AES) already scheduled on June 4 a probe on the matter.

The Comelec, he said, will be asked to explain on the faulty VCMs and SD cards in several polling precincts nationwide, as well as the delay in its transparency servers.

“Masyadong maraming problema na dapat na-anticipate na yan given the time of preparation — they had three years for the preparation — and then budget allotted to the Comelec…How come nangyayari ito?” Pimentel, who chairs the Senate panel for the JCOC-AES, said.

The reelectionist senator added that the committee will also look into claims of election fraud.

Smartmatic machines

Sotto maintained his view that the government should replace its technology provider for the automated polls as he recalled having discovered the Smartmatic’s supposed involvement in the alleged manipulation of the 2016 national elections.

The Senate President, in a series of privilege speeches last year, claimed that there had been “irregularities” that transpired before and after the 2016 elections.

The Comelec in 2018 purchased from Smartmatic the VCMs it rented to reuse for the 2019 elections.

But even as he raised concerns over the use of Smartmatic machines, Sotto said he was not yet convinced that there was fraud in Monday’s polls.

“I am not ready to say this election is not credible, perhaps the call of Sen. Pimentel for inquiry by the oversight committee is proper so that we can be enlightened,” he said.

He said challenging the tally of the senatorial race, and proposing the delay in the proclamation of winners, could also put the results of the local elections in question.

Those who doubt the results of the midterm polls should substantiate their claims with evidence, Sotto said.

“Kung may mga nagdududa, i-presenta nila ‘yong dahilan kung bakit sila nagdududa and present the evidence…Magpresenta ka nang ebidensiya na hindi credible ang election (If there are suspicions, they should explain why they are doubting the results and present evidence…Show evidence why the elections were not credible),” he told reporters.

Partial tallies of the 2019 midterm elections so far show administration-endorsed candidates dominating the senatorial race. #MatalinongBoto2019

READ MORE: Senate to probe VCM glitches