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Congress starts canvassing with overseas vote first in line

(Update 2 - 10:05 p.m.) After three days of delay due to recurrent queries on alleged poll irregularities, the National Board of Canvassers on Thursday finally started opening certificates of canvass to tally the votes for president and vice president. The 18-man joint congressional canvassing committee decided to use the “first in, first count" rule, or the Certificates of Canvass (COC) which came first will be the first to be opened. The first COC that arrived at the Senate on May 11 was from Laos, and it was the first to be opened and tallied. The Liberal Party tandem of Senator Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Roxas II showed an early lead in the first-day tally, with the votes of overseas Filipinos coming from five Asia-Pacific countries. Only those manually prepared COCs will be opened, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said. These are the COCs from the overseas absentee voting (OAV) and some from the local absentee voting. "We did not open any COC that is electronically transmitted," Enrile said.
Bolt cutter to remove seals The actual canvassing of votes started around 6:55 pm after almost four hours deliberation on how they will determine the authenticity and due execution of the COCs. Enrile led the opening of the first ballot box containing the COC from Laos, and announced to the gallery that it appears to be in "good condition" with three padlocks. A bolt cutter had to be used to open the seals, leading Enrile to comment that the box was indeed "secured." The contents of the box were likewise thoroughly described, with the signing election officer and the number of the COC announced to the audience. The lawyers of the presidential and vice presidential candidates were allowed to enter their appearance and witness the opening of the COCs. The NBOC suspended its session for the day with canvassed OAV votes from Laos, Guam, Brunei, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand. Initial tally of canvassed votes Aquino received a total of 2,014 votes from overseas Filipinos in the five countries, while his running mate Roxas got 1,920. Trailing the LP tandem was the team of Nacionalista Party’s Senator Manuel Villar Jr. and Loren Legarda who received 585 and 855 votes, respectively. On third place in the presidential race was Gilberto Teodoro Jr. with 548 votes while Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay occupied the slot in the vice presidential race with 642 votes. The following is the end-of-day tally of votes for president and vice-president as of late Thursday evening: For president - 4,236 votes cast
For vice-president - 4,202 votes cast
ROXAS - 1,920 LEGARDA - 855 BINAY - 642 FERNANDO - 459 YASAY - 182 MANZANO - 108 SONZA - 31 CHIPECO - 5
In a press statement, Binay’s camp said they expected Roxas’s lead in the OAV count. “The overseas absentee voting results have already been reported in media. We expect Mar Roxas to lead. But we must remember that total registered OAV voters is around 560,000 – around one percent of total registered voters – with initial reports of only 25 to 30 percent turnout," JV Bautista, Binay’s spokesman said. 'Cross the bridge when we get there' In an interview before the opening of the COCs, House Speaker Prospero Nograles said they decided to temporarily set aside their concerns. "If we don't open one we will never know, so let's go through the motion and let's open one so we will know how long does it take, so that we can have an idea how long one COC would consume," he said. He refused to answer questions on possible scenarios. "We will cross the bridge when we get there. I don't want to answer speculative questions...If there is no problem, then why rock the boat? If they see a problem they will let us know," Nograles said. The NBOC will resume its session on Friday at 1 p.m.—With report from Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV