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Comelec told to answer petition to nullify proclamation of senators elected in 2013

The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections to respond to a petition by defeated candidates who want the proclamation of senators in the 2013 elections nullified because of alleged inaccuracies in the results.

The order was contained in a resolution issued by the high court en banc last April 22 in Baguio City but was released to the media only recently. The resolution was signed by SC en banc Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal.

"The court resolved, without giving due course to the petition, to require the respondent to comment thereon within 10 days from notice thereof," said the high tribunal.

In its 25-page petition filed last March 31, the group of petitioners accused the Comelec of grave abuse of discretion when it proclaimed the winning senators in the May 2013 polls "despite the questionable accuracy of the election returns that were sought to be canvassed."

The group of petitioners includes Ricardo Penson, Hans Christian Señeres, Rhizalito David and Baldomero Falcone.

The petitioners insisted that the Comelec pushed through with the proclamation despite having knowledge that there were differences between the automated and manual counts, and even as the random manual audit had yet to be completed.

The group quoted National Statistics Office statistician Florante Varona as saying in a Senate inquiry that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines failed to comply with the percentage accuracy required under the law and under the contract with the Comelec.

The group also said it was "premature" for the Comelec to have proclaimed winners because there was "no showing of the number of remaining votes yet to be canvassed in relation to the total votes cast for the said election."

This was despite Comelec's justification that the proclamation was made "considering that the remaining votes that have not yet been canvassed would not materially affect the results."

The petitioners said the Comelec also failed to include in its proclamation ruling and subsequent senatorial canvass report an "indication of compliance" to the authentication requirement for electronically-transmitted election results of the May 2013 polls.

The petitioners also pointed out that the Comelec ignored findings made by the Technical Evaluation Committee that extraneous lines found on ballot images caused an "overvote" resulting in an "automated dagdag-bawas."

The petitioners noted Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes' own admission during a Senate committee hearing on the May 2013 polls that there might have been an "accidental proclamation."

The 12 senators proclaimed in the May 2013 polls were: Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Aquilino Pimentel III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Gregorio Honasan, and Cynthia Villar. — JDS, GMA News