Comelec to reconvene Sarangani MBOC to correct errors

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 June) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will reconvene Friday the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) in Maasim town in Sarangani Province to rectify the previous errors in the town’s canvassing of votes that resulted in the proclamation of two non-winning candidates in the recent May 10 elections.

Mantil Alim, Sarangani provincial election supervisor, said the MBOC will reconvene at 8 a.m. Friday at the Sangguniang Bayan session hall of Maasim to canvass anew the votes from the town’s clustered precinct number 21, which had failed to properly transmit the actual votes cast during the election day.

He said the MBOC’s reconvening was ordered by the Comelec en banc in a resolution dated June 10 that was officially received by the Sarangani provincial Comelec office late last week.

Alim said the Comelec resolution was mainly issued for cases of erroneous transmission and canvassing of votes last May 10 that also happened in Kalinga Province and in several parts of the country.

“We’ll do the canvassing all over again to correct the previous errors so we can proclaim the real winning candidates,” he told MindaNews in a phone interview Thursday.

Alim said the re-canvassing of votes from clustered precinct number 21 of Barangay Kablakan in Maasim will mainly affect the results of the town’s mayoralty race and the last winning seat in the municipal council.

The MBOC earlier proclaimed independent candidate Jose Zamorro as the winning mayor of Maasim after receiving 5,321 votes, edging his closest rival, outgoing provincial board member Arturo Lawa, who got 5,306 votes, or a difference of only 15 votes.

But Lawa, who ran under administration coalition Sarangani Reconciliation and Reformation Organization-Lakas-Kampi-CMD (Sarro-Lakas), immediately sought the nullification of Zamorro’s proclamation after it turned out that the MBOC failed to count the actual votes cast in clustered precinct 21 due to a transmission error.

The MBOC erroneously canvassed the nine votes cast during the mock elections or the testing and sealing of the deployed precinct count optical scan or PCOS machine in the polling precinct and not the actual votes cast during the May 10 automated elections.

The questioned clustered precinct, which covered four established precincts in Barangay Kablakan, had 800 registered voters, wherein 616 of them actually voted in the May 10 elections based on the copies of election returns printed from the PCOS machine.

In the certified election returns from the precinct, Lawa received 136 votes while Zamorro had 62 votes.

Such discrepancies in the MBOC’s official canvass were also raised by members of election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting based on the copies of election returns transmitted to them by the Comelec.

“Hopefully the proceedings will go smoothly but we’re preparing for some measures in case the lawyers of the contending parties will raise some objections,” Alim said.

Aside from the mayoralty race, Comelec records showed that re-canvassing of votes from precinct number 21 will affect the proclamation of Teresita Lanticse as the town’s number eight councilor.

The MBOC’s previous canvass showed Lanticse receiving 3,851 votes while Milliano Villarojo is trailing her with 3,830 votes.

Unofficial results from clustered precinct 21 showed Villarojo overtaking Lanticse with a margin of 38 votes in the final tally.

Meantime, Lawa hailed the Comelec en banc’s decision to canvass anew the votes in his town and correct the previous erroneous proclamation of his rival.

“I’m very grateful for this swift decision by the Comelec. This is justice. I hope it will end all the previous political rumblings here,” he said.

Zamorro, who remained elusive from the media following his proclamation last month, had vowed to contest any move from his rival’s camp.

Outgoing Maasim Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. took over Thursday the supervision of the town’s security for the scheduled reconvening of the MBOC in anticipation of possible protest actions that will be launched by contending political camps in the area. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)