PPCRV defends role in election vote counting

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — Election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting on Monday defended its mandate after an individual who identified himself as a volunteer questioned the group’s role in the recent elections.

PPCRV chairperson Myla Villanueva explained that the watchdog is not mandated to conduct a random manual audit of ballots.

“I would like to answer your question going around social media about why actual ballots are not being audited by PPCRV. This is not our mandate. It is our friends at NAMFREL and LENTE who are actually doing this as we speak,” she said in a statement on her Facebook account.

Villanueva made the statement following an open letter from a certain Freddy Olbes, who claimed to have volunteered for the PPCRV on May 12.

In his letter that went viral online, Olbes said that he was “surprised and disappointed therefore, to find out that what we were encoding were precinct totals already added up from election returns handed in by the Comelec - the very body whose results we were ostensibly investigating.”

“The exercise that we volunteers were undertaking was akin to examining the veracity of an original document by perusing its carbon copy. In short, we were acting as the Comelec's (and by inference the government's) rubber stamp,” Olbes’ letter continued.

The Philippine Statistics Authority randomly selected 757 clustered precincts for the manual auditing of votes which started on May 11.

During the manual auditing, ballots in a randomly chosen precinct will be read out and tallied manually and then compared to the official count from vote counting machines.

READ: EXPLAINER: What PPCRV volunteers do after May 9 polls

Villanueva explained that the PPCRV’s task is to check against any transmission fraud with the election returns.

“What we do at PPCRV is to check against transmission fraud when ERs (election returns) go into Cyberspace. To protect against a term you know as Dagdag-Bawas. We compare pre-transmission ERs to post-transmission ERs. Together [with] others, it is a wholistic audit of the process, in any election cycle,” she noted.

“To correct your impression, protecting against Dagdag Bawas was the process you witnessed in UST. This audit process has been in place since candidate NoyNoy Aquino was elected, and also in 2016, when candidate Duterte and VP Leni were elected,” Villanueva added.

She noted that journalists were also present at the PPCRV’s command center inside the University of Santo Tomas campus.

As of 10:30 a.m. of May 16, the PPCRV has so far received 66,574 election returns from 107,785 precincts.