Certificates of canvass initially sent through Viber raise eyebrows

May 25, 2022 - 2:01 PM
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Reports of certificates of canvassing being sent to a messaging platform during the Congress’ canvassing of votes for the highest positions of the land earned backlash among Filipinos.

Some members of the House of Representatives and Senate, convening as the National Board of Canvassers, are currently tabulating the votes for the president and vice president in the 2022 national elections.

While the elections are automated, the winners of the presidential and vice presidential races can only be proclaimed after all of the votes have been canvassed or counted and counterchecked by Congress, according to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

It is also Congress that proclaims the president and vice president.

During the canvassing, ballot boxes containing the certificates of canvass (COCs) from different areas of the country are opened. The printed copies are compared to the electronically transmitted COCs.

Lawmakers must ensure that the number of votes in the electronically transmitted COCs is identical to the physically delivered COCs.

The documents must bear the signatures and thumb marks of the chairpersons of the Provincial Boards of Canvassers (PBOC), the City Boards of Canvassers (CBOC) and members of the COC.

Electronically transmitted COCs must also contain the names of all of the candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, as well as their respective votes in numbers or words.

Should there be any anomalies or issues, the canvassing of the COCs concerned is deferred and the PBOC or CBOC will be required to appear in the Congress within 24 hours to explain.

If a physical meeting is not possible, they may be able to explain it in a form of communication considered “safe and reliable” by the joint panel.

Delayed ballot boxes containing a COC must be delivered to Congress within 24 hours as well. If the COC is lost, destroyed or unavailable, the panel will order the Commission on Elections to submit its authentic copy within 24 hours.

On Tuesday, Congress permitted three missing COCs to be sent through Viber, an instant messaging platform with end-to-end encryption.

Reports said that COCs from Surigao del Sur, Pampanga and Sultan Kudarat were deemed missing. They were required to deliver the physical copies to the Congress within 24 hours.

The Surigao Del Sur provincial elections supervisor said it “was inadvertently mixed with COCP, the certificate of canvass and proclamation of another position.”

The Pampanga provincial elections supervisor said they would check if the COC was left in their office.

A Sultan Kudarat elections official initially said that they have placed the envelope of the COC in the ballot box.

This was countered by House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez who pointed out that it wasn’t in the boxes delivered to them. When the officials were asked if they had a physical copy of the COC, they were unable to produce it.

Due to this, the officials were required to present the original copy of the COC via Zoom, authenticate it under oath and then send it through Viber instead.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the co-chair of the National Board of Canvassers – Congress, said this is allowed in their rules as long as the officials authenticate the documents.

The incident didn’t amuse some Filipinos on social media who questioned the lapses and the use of a messaging platform to send an important document.

“So the question ‘hindi ba (puwede) sa Google docs na lang mag-vote?’ wasn’t far-fetched after all,” Pia Magalona tweeted with a disguised face emoji.

“Sana sa Facebook na lang kami bumoto,” another Twitter user said with clown emojis.

“Umuwi pa ako, nag-travel ng 10hrs via land tapos send sa Viber din lang ang COC, edi sana sa Viber na lang nagbotohan,” wrote a different Filipino.

“Taray… Viber? Sana sa Facebook (na lang) din kami bomoto. Paramihan ng likes at heart react,” another Twitter user commented.

Zubiri likewise expressed his dismay over the missing COCs from the ballot boxes.

“They only have one job and one job to do… which is to insert the COCs of the province of the results of the president and vice president into a ballot box and deliver it to the senate. One job and one job only,” he said.

“How can they be remiss of that job that is constitutionally mandated of them to do and therefore, we admonish the Comelec for this non-action or non-appearance of this COCs,” the lawmaker added.

As of Wednesday morning, reports note that according to the provincial election supervisors, they have already physically delivered the authentic copies of COCs to the Congress.

A total of 128 out of 173 COCs have been canvassed as of 12:15 p.m.

Based on the partial, official canvassing, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is leading the presidency, while his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is leading the vice presidential race.