MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) stopped updating the tallies for the presidential and vice presidential races Tuesday after lawyers of losing candidates warned the poll body that it might preempt the function of Congress to canvass tabulations for the top two posts.
“People might say that we are proclaiming the president. We just gave the public a bit of a preview,” Comelec Chair Jose Melo told reporters.
The last tallies of the votes for presidential and vice presidential candidates, based on 78.5 percent of the electronically transmitted election returns, came in Tuesday at 6:15 a.m.
The early morning Comelec tallies showed that Sen. Benigno Aquino III was ahead of the pack with 12,233,002 votes. Former President Joseph Estrada had 7,749,597, while Sen. Manuel Villar got 4,329,215.
Former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro received 3,243,688 votes, followed by Bro. Eddie Villanueva at 916,543 votes. Sen. Richard Gordon got 431,954 votes. Nicanor Perlas got 42,205; Sen. Jamby Madrigal, 37,119; and John Carlos de los Reyes, 34,833.
In the vice presidential race, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay was leading at 12,025,429 votes. Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II was close behind at 11,213, 563.
Sen. Loren Legarda got 3,259,963; Bayani Fernando, 847,100 and Edu Manzano, 593,653 votes. Perfecto Yasay garnered 295, 558; Jay Sonza, 50,722; and Dominador Chipeco Jr., 40,335.
Melo said the Comelec would postpone the announcement of results of the presidential and vice presidential races to Wednesday morning.
Asked about delaying the announcement of tallies, Cesar Flores, spokesperson of Smartmatic-TIM Corp., which provided the counting machines, said: “I would keep on releasing it if I were the Comelec.”
Flores said 88.5 percent of the 76,300 clustered precincts nationwide had transmitted results to the Comelec. By midnight, the Comelec should have 92 percent-95 percent of the election returns, he said.
Aquino cemented his position as the likely runaway winner in partial unofficial results of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The PPCRV placed the votes for Aquino at 13,165,152, a lead of close to 5 million votes over Estrada.
The Comelec-accredited citizens’ arm has a server that receives transmissions of election returns from the clustered precincts nationwide.
Figures the PPCRV announced at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday represented results from some 85.86 percent of 76,475 polling precincts nationwide.
After Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal held a press conference in the morning announcing the completion of tabulations of results from 78.55 percent of election returns, the Comelec made no further announcements for the rest of the day.
Commissioner Lucenito Tagle singled out George Garcia, a legal representative of Estrada, among the lawyers who allegedly warned that the Comelec might preempt Congress, which is tasked with canvassing the tabulations for the presidential and vice presidential candidates.
So far, Villar of the Nacionalista Party, Teodoro of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, Gordon of Bagumbayan, De los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran and Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas have already conceded to Aquino of the Liberal Party.
“The lawyers of these ‘presidentiables’ asked why we were already announcing the results because our figures might be different from the numbers that would be tabulated in Congress,” Tagle said at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
“What if the figures we announce are different from the ones received by Congress? The issue is there might be conflicting figures,” he added.
Tagle was apparently referring to a constitutional provision designating the Senate and the House of Representatives in joint session as the government body that will canvass the results of the presidential and vice presidential races and proclaim the winners.
Tagle said that before commissioners faced the media at the noontime press conference, the request made by lawyers of the presidential candidates was discussed.
“We commissioners were in favor (of revealing the results beyond 78.55 percent) although it was also considered that there might be legal concerns if we insist on it. So it was agreed that we would not,” Tagle said.
Asked about Melo’s opinion on the matter, Tagle said: “The chair said ‘we had announced 78 percent. So let’s not continue. And we are accused by the lawyers (of preempting Congress).’ One of them was George Garcia.”
Tagle said he told Melo that the press was waiting for updated tabulations. But Melo reportedly replied: “Because we already disclosed the results from 78 percent of the returns, we can be accused of setting the stage for an announcement.”
Tagle said other commissioners also expressed concern over the issue. “Because we were nearing 100 percent, it might be said that we are taking the role of Congress.”
During the interview, Tagle said Smartmatic had already reported an 87-percent completion of the election results.
As of Tuesday night, he remained optimistic that Melo would reconsider his decision to stop further announcements of the election results. (Melo later said that the tabulations would continue Wednesday morning.)
Tagle insisted that the Comelec’s figures remain unofficial, as indicated on its website.
A number of lawmakers wanted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to call for a special session of Congress to expedite the canvassing of election results in view of the quick transmission of election returns.
House Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II is proposing that the special session be held on May 24 instead of May 31 when Congress is scheduled to resume session for sine die adjournment of the 14th Congress.
The Constitution provides that Congress conduct a canvass within three days from the election in a joint session, said Gonzales, who switched from Lakas-Kampi-CMD to the Liberal Party last month.
Gonzalez said an early proclamation of Aquino as the newly elected president was the best option for the country especially after a bitterly fought campaign.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said that as long as the election returns had been transmitted to Congress and duly certified by the city or provincial board of canvassers, there was no reason to wait two more weeks before starting the official canvass.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III said Ms Arroyo should consider the best course of the country and exercise her right to call a special session. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan