FORMER Compostela mayor Ritchie Wagas lost 103 votes in the manual recount of ballots in court yesterday, but he proved his point: that a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine erred in counting votes in the 2013 election.
“I did not file the protest against (Mayor Joel) Quiño only to win but most importantly to prove that the past automated election was questionable and has damaged the integrity of the election,” Wagas said in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) 56.
That’s where the ballots from Barangay Lupa’s clustered precinct No. 26 were recounted.
RTC Branch 56 Judge Teresita Galanida said it was the second time Wagas proved a discrepancy in the PCOS machine count. He did the same when he filed a protest after the 2010 election, also against Quiño.
Lawyer Ernesto Rama, counsel of Wagas, told the court that the second protest is more glaring because the PCOS count showed 16 ballots for independent mayoral candidate Cudeta Cabahug. The revision showed there wasn’t any vote for her in that precinct.
But lawyer Guiller Ceniza, counsel for Quiño, said that although there were some imperfections of the automated system, the manual system had its flaws as well.
This year will only be the third automated elections in the country.
In the PCOS count during the May 13, 2013 election, the result for Precinct No. 26 in Barangay Lupa showed 72 votes for Wagas, 78 votes for Quiño and 16 votes for Cabahug.
In the manual count, Wagas got 175 votes, Quino had 206 votes, and Cabahug had none.
“How can we explain that? Does that mean that the PCOS machine supplied votes for a particular candidate? Whether this is governed by the rules of automation or manual counting, it is true that the PCOS machine counted some votes that were not there,” the judge said.
“That is a cause for alarm, Your Honor,” Ceniza replied.
As to the invalid votes, the court said there wasn’t much cause for concern. If less than 50 percent of the circle beside a candidate’s name is shaded, that ballot is considered invalid.
“The mystery of all mysteries is, why should the PCOS machine count 16 votes for Cabahug when the manual count would show that she did not get any vote at all?” Judge Galanida asked.
Wagas had protested the results in five ballot boxes. But because he has already achieved his purpose of proving that the PCOS machine erred, his camp decided to forgo the recount of the other four boxes.
The court-appointed revision committee composed of lawyer Pete Uliver O. Vercide as chairman, with lawyer Jerson T. Yangson and Renato L. Tejero as members, will submit its report to the court 10 days after they get a copy of the stenographic notes.
The court ordered Compostela Municipal Treasurer Cleofe S. Gonzaga and police escorts PO2 Gleen Rosal and SPO1 Dino Caputol to bring the five ballot boxes back to Compostela after the case was terminated yesterday.
Wagas said that based on the result of yesterday’s recount, he will urge One Cebu, headed by gubernatorial candidate Winston Garcia, and the United Nationalists Alliance (UNA) to file a petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for a manual count at the precinct level.
In the May 9, 2016 elections, a random manual audit will be conducted in more than 700 precincts, or at least one precinct per legislative district, to check the accuracy of the Voting and Counting Machines.