THE 2016 elections culminate today with the proclamation of the incoming president and vice president, after Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, completed its official count Friday.
When the last Certificate of Canvass was counted, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte emerged as the new president, with an overwhelming 16,601,997 votes, some 6.6 million more than the nearest candidate.
The Liberal Party’s candidate, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, was declared the winner in the vice presidential race by a much narrower margin, with a total of 14,418,817 votes, or just 263,473 ahead of the nearest contender, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whom President Aquino had earlier vowed to stop.
Given the President’s promise “to try his best” to stop Marcos, the senator’s camp has raised questions throughout the counting process.
But when it questioned reports of irregularities in the overseas absentee voting, the Commission on Elections brushed these aside, and even warned voters against filing “frivolous” complaints.
In the evening of Election Day, after the polls had closed, a technician from the Comelec’s IT provider, Smartmatic, introduced a new script into the transparency server that was receiving and reporting unofficial results. Following the unauthorized insertion, Marcos’ 1-million vote lead over Robredo vanished in a matter of hours.
When the Marcos camp questioned the illegal introduction of the new script, the Comelec played down the incident, describing it as “a cosmetic change” to correct a misprinted “ñ” character in some names, and expected the public to take its declaration as gospel truth.
The Comelec also rejected a request from the Marcos camp for a thorough system audit to ascertain that no other changes had been introduced. The Comelec’s reason for “deferring” the Marcos request was that it would get in the way of the official count that was going on in Congress—suggesting that it did not matter how legitimate those votes were, as long as they were counted.
Another statistical indicator of possible fraud was the high number of undervotes—3.2 million—in the vice presidential race. This statistic meant that 3.2 million voters who stood in line on Election Day had voted for a president but not a vice president—certainly an unlikely phenomenon given the closeness and the polarized nature of this particular contest.
Without investigating the matter, the Comelec sided with the Robredo camp, and immediately declared that undervotes were common and not an indication of fraud.
The Marcos camp says the search for truth will continue—suggesting it will contest the election result. Such a process is likely to be long and arduous, but worth doing just the same, since the Comelec has failed to address the legitimate questions raised about the electoral process.
Without holding our election officials accountable, it would be easy to slip into the cynical view held by the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
“It is enough that the people know there was an election,” Stalin said. “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”