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The Commission on Elections said Thursday there was post-election tampering or manipulation of votes for defeated 2013 senatorial candidate Eddie Villanueva in a precinct in Nueva Ecija.
Reporting the result of the review it conducted between the physical and decrypted ballots in cluster precinct 19 in Barangay Concepcion in Gapan town, where there was alleged discrepancy in the votes for Villanueva, Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the physical ballots were touched after the elections and the oval for Villanueva was shaded.
“In the paper ballot, there is a shade in the Villanueva oval but in the decrypted image there is no shade. Our conclusion is that this was a case of post election tampering,” Brillantes told the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System.
The decrypted image is a scanned picture of the ballot when the voter puts it in the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine during election day.
“At the time of election there, was no shade but when the ballot was opened (during a recount conducted by the Regional Trial Court in Nueva Ecija), there was already a shade in the Villanueva [oval],” Brillantes said.
“It is obvious that when you go over the physical ballot, there was an insertion of a shade in the oval for Villanueva,” he added.
At the same time, Brillanes said the Comelec personnel who conducted a review on the ballots also noticed that the shade for Villanueva was embossed unlike that for other candidates.
“You can feel the shade. When you shade it (oval) on election day, these shade (ink) was absorbed by the paper if you use the regular marking pen of the Comelec. The marking pen used (in the ballots reviewed) is not the one used by the Comelec and not absorbed by the paper. It was placed by somebody else and not the voter,” he said.
Supporters of Villanueva earlier filed a case before a Nueva Ecija court to conduct a recount on the votes for their candidate, claiming the leader of the Jesus is Lord Church had tallied more votes than those officially counted by the PCOS.
Villanueva sought a Senate seat during the 2013 elections under the Bangon Pilipinas Party but lost.
After conducting a recount, a decision penned by Judge Celso Baguio of the Regional Trial Court of Gapan City 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.
The JCOCAES, after learning of the court decision, decided to conduct a review of the ballots with the help of Comelec.
Brillantes said the result of the review showed that the regional trial court should not touch the ballots especially if there is no election protest filed.
“(The RTCs) have no jurisdiction to open the ballots when there is no protest filed,” he said, adding that if there is a protest, it should be filed before the Comelec or the Senate Electoral Tribunal or House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.
He said he will ask the Court Administrator or Supreme Court to give instructions to RTC judges that they do not have jurisdiction over ballots on a basis of a civil case.
The poll chairman added that there should be investigation regarding the manipulation of the ballots which is a criminal offense. — RSJ, GMA News