Comelec on poll documents found in Cavite: Not a cause for alarm, a case of 'inadvertence'

Published June 17, 2022, 3:54 PM

by Dhel Nazario

Less than a month after the discovery of the election documents left in a vacant lot in Amadeo, Cavite, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said in a statement on Friday, June 17 that the incident was on account of inadvertence and not a cause for alarm.

A man is seen picking up a box from the Jose Rizal Elementary School where the election documents found in Amadeo, Cavite. This photo according to Atty. Gregorio Bonifacio, Election Officer (EO) of Manila District 3 was from the police personnel on duty. (Photo from Comelec)

Netizens were riled up by the Facebook post which led to a probe by the poll body. Then Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said that it was imperative for them to resolve the issue even though the black boxes only contained excess non-accountable election documents since the incident may cast some doubts on the otherwise clean May 2022 polls.

In a statement, Comelec said that the report of the Packing and Shipping Committee (PSC) headed by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino was deliberated upon during its regular en banc meeting on June 15.

PSC report

In the said en banc meeting, Ferolino stated that the inclusion of said election materials in the reverse logistics in JP Rizal Elem. School was on account of inadvertence, with the schools’ clerk custodian giving instructions to F2 Personnel to take everything, wherein the latter is of the impression to retrieve the subject items together with the Vote Counting Machines.

It can be recalled that Engr. Julio Thaddeus Hernan, Director IV of the Administrative Services Department (ASD) of Comelec explained last month that in the reverse logistics process, F2 logistics should have only collected the Automated Election System (AES) machine and not the boxes.

However, this contradicts the statement provided by Atty. Gregorio Bonifacio, Election Officer (EO) of Manila during the regular press briefing last month on May 23 wherein he stated that it was the F2 personnel who instructed the school officers that they will take everything.

“Ang sabi po kasi nung Administrative Officer ng Rizal Elementary School, sinabihan sila nung F2 na kukunin lahat. Nung kinukuha po kasi yung Vote Counting Machine (VCM), few meters away lang nandun yung itim na box. Ang pagkakaintindi lahat so pati po yung itim na box kinuha (What the Administrative Officer of Rizal Elementary School said was that they were told by F2 that they will get everything. When they fetched the VCM, a few meters from it was the black box. From what they understood is that they will get everything so even the black box was retrieved),” Bonifacio explained in the press briefing last month.

“Hindi ko po kayang i-explain bakit kinuha ‘yun (I cannot explain why they took it),” he added.

Given that the personnel from F2 logistics were apparently briefed on what they should collect from the polling centers and the presence there of police and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), it is unclear as to why the incident occurred. Bonifacio stated that the reason why the men took the boxes is beyond him.

Not a cause for alarm

According to Ferolino, election materials inside the black boxes were used items such as indelible ink, stamp pads, bond papers, as well as, used/excess non-accountable forms, ballot secrecy folders and envelopes.

“None of the items were considered ’cause for alarm’ or used for fraud or similar activities as may have been alleged in the Facebook post,” Ferolino stated.

Boxes inscribed with the words ‘Comelec Cargo’ were found in a vacant lot in Amadeo, Cavite. (Photo from Rodne Rodiño Galicha’s Facebook post)

Ferolino further mentioned that during transit, and upon realizing that the subject election materials are not included in the items subject of the reverse logistics, the concerned F2 Logistics Personnel temporarily unloaded such in their parking area in Amadeo, Cavite, while seeking clarification as to where to deliver such.

“That after said clarification, and realizing their inadvertence and miscommunication with the aforementioned clerk of JP Rizal Elem. Sch., said F2 personnel immediately recovered such election materials and brought the same to the F2 Logistics Headquarters in Parañque City, where it has been stored and safekept up to this writing,” she added.

Contrary to the claim on the social media post that the materials were left on a vacant lot where trash such as empty bottles and vegetation can be seen in the video, Ferolino stated that the area where the election materials were found is in fact a parking area of F2 Logistics vehicles.

Hernan has stated last month that Amadeo is not along the route to Sta. Rosa, Laguna where the machines are said to be brought. Even if they take the longer route, Hernan mentioned that they will not even reach Amadeo since it is already too far.

Ferolino mentioned that all the subject items were all accounted for as having been presented to and inspected by the PSC Investigators