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Comelec: No discrepancy between official tally, decrypted ballots in precinct recount

There was no discrepancy between the official tally transmitted by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine and the votes in the decrypted ballots for defeated 2013 senatorial candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva in one precinct in Nueva Ecija, according to the initial examination of the Commission on Elections.

It took the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election at least four hours to decrypt or download the images of the ballots cast in clustered precinct 19 in Barangay Concepcion, Gapan, Nueva Ecija, then check, print, and count the votes for Villanueva.

The committee did not touch the ballots from clustered precincts 29 and 30, as their supposed discrepancies were small, unlike in precinct 19.

A decision penned by Judge Celso Baguio of the Regional Trial Court of Gapan City earlier this year showed Villanueva getting 900 votes in the manual counting in Clustered Precincts Nos. 19, 29 and 30 of Barangays Pias and Concepcion against the official Comelec tally of only 781 votes.

Due to this, the committee decided to do the recount in Gapan to test the accuracy of the PCOS machine.

“In the election return, Villanueva has 278 votes. Per physical count of the ballots, candidate Villanueva obtained 366 votes. Per physical count of the decrypted ballot images, Villanueva obtained 278 votes,” said lawyer Roseller Abad, the Comelec staff member who reviewed the ballots.

Asked by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to explain the difference between the physical count of paper ballots and the ballot images, Abad said they still need to compare each of the paper ballots with the image captured by PCOS machine when the voter put his ballot into the device.

The senator then gave the Comelec personnel time to complete their examination of the ballots.

“The next hearing is on September 11, 9:30 am. We should be ready with announcing the results of thorough examination of the ballots,” he said.

But Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr  said that the examination already shows that there is no discrepancy between the election return transmitted by PCOS and the result of the decrypted ballot count. He said that the physical count might have differed because the paper ballots were tampered with.

He said the Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of the decrypted ballots when there is discrepancy in the physical count of paper ballots.

“Yung decrypted ballots cannot be tampered with, that is why SC ruled, in case of discrepancy, it has to be the ballot image that should prevail over paper ballot because it cannot be tampered,” Brillantes said.

Pimentel, however, said the joint congressional committee cannot accept the conclusion of the initial review yet.

Brillantes also said that they if the paper ballots were indeed tampered with, they will be running after those responsible.

“Violation 'yun, election offense. Hahabulin namin yung mga nagtamper niyan,” he told reporters after the hearing.

Pimentel said the committee will come out with its official report in seven to 10 days.

“As expected, the scanned images matched the election return count but that is precisely what we are going to explain, how come the physical counting of ballots does not match the digital count of the machines,” he said.

“Kung mapakita sa kasong ito na totally walang basis o very far from reality ang officially announced results by the PCOS machines, then we have a problem. That is why we undertook this activity. So kung yun ang conclusion we have a problem pero pag ang conclusion is the machine counted accurately, we don’t have a problem,” said Pimentel. — BM, GMA News