ILOILO – Losing gubernatorial candidate Cong. Ferjenel Biron (4th District) filed an election protest against Governor-elect Arthur Defensor Jr. He sought a manual recount of votes in 2,184 clustered precincts all over the province a little over a week after conceding defeat.
Biron cited pre-election surveys showing him winning the May 13 midterm poll for governor. He also complained of election irregularities such as vote-buying.
According to Biron, the election result deviated from the pre-election survey result of Random Access Consultants, Inc. (RACI) a week or two before May 13 which showed him winning by a substantial margin of votes, he insisted.
“Ang result sang survey a week before sang election did not anticipate sang resulta sang election kon sa diin napirdi kita (by 87,678 votes),” he said over DyFM Bombo Radyo Iloilo yesterday.
Biron filed his election protest at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) central office in Metro Manila on May 27.
“Consistent ang survey sang RACI two weeks and a week before the election kon sa diin we will win by a substantial margin,” said Biron.
As it turned out, Defensor got 479,081 votes while Biron had 391,403 votes. There were three others who ran for governor.
In his election protest, Biron complained against the “shocking discrepancy” between the number of voters who actually voted as against the total number of votes obtained by gubernatorial candidates.
Some 99,899 votes were unaccounted or missing, he claimed.
“It is appalling…for a local electorate to yield such a significant discrepancy or missing / unaccounted votes, especially in voting for local positions, taking into account the fervent interest of the public in taking part in the elections of their local public officials,” part of his election protest read.
The congressman said out of over 1.2 million registered voters in the province, the estimated turnout of votes was 80 percent or 980,542. However, he said, even the combined votes of his and Defensor’s only reached 880,643.
“Close to 100,000 votes ang wala naisip kag wala nahibaluan kon diin nagkadto. Very clear ini, may suspicion kita nga may anomaliya nga natabo because sa survey sang RACI less than one percent ang undecided a week before the election,” said Biron.
His election protest raised the following issues:
* rampant vote-buying
* arbitrary omission of the names of identified Biron voters from the list of registered voters
* reported pre-shaded ballots favoring Defensor were given to voters
* discrepancies between the results as reflected in the printed election returns and the transmitted results
* refusal of the Electoral Board to allow Biron watchers to observe the election proceedings
* several incidence of violence, harassment and vote-buying in precincts
* errors in the appreciation of votes cast in the ballots by the vote-counting machines (VCMs)
* some ballots were rejected by the VCMs; these rejected ballots were not tallied separately but were considered spoiled ballots and placed in a separate receptacle
* breakdowns of VCMs and defective SD Cards cast doubts on the accuracy and quality of the machines
* despite unusable VCMs in some clustered precincts, voters were still ordered to vote but their ballots were to be inserted at the contingency VCMs at a later time; whether these votes were validly included in the final tally remains to be an uncertainty
* several unregistered voters were allowed to vote, some were even assisted by the supporters of Defensor while the former were shading their ballots
* dead voters still in the rolls and their names were used to cast ballots
Biron also cited reports about persons voting for him but got a receipt from VCMs showing them to have voted for Defensor.
“Given the advice of our lawyers and people who are experts in information technology, we have decided (to file an election protest) para once and for all ma-settle ang issue kon ano gid ang matuod-tuod nga result sang election. Ang aton mga supporters, even our big campaign leaders – the Garin group, Gorriceta, Tupas, even our leaders in the 3rd District and the entire province – could hardly comprehend sang result because updated sila sang survey,” said Biron.
Because the influential Garin family was on his side, Biron was expected to perform exceptionally well in the 1st District made up of the municipalities of Oton, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Igbaras, Tubungan, Miag-ao, and San Joaquin. The Garins were the acknowledged political kingpins of the district.
But Biron only won in three towns – Guimbal, San Joaquin and Tubungan.
Defensor shrugged off the election protest and said election results and pre-election surveys were two different things.
A lot of things could affect surveys, said Defensor, and surveyed voters could always change their minds even on election day.
“Surveys are not valid grounds for election protests. Kon amo ina ang ground, the election protest will not progress,” said Defensor who admitted not having received a copy of it yet.
As to the alleged irregularities in voter’s receipts, Defensor stressed the concerned voters should have complained right there and then at the Board of Election Inspectors.
“Didto pa lang sa presinto ginareklamo mo na daan,” said Defensor.
As far as his victory was concerned, Defensor said, he had long been confident of his winnability, citing the warm reception he got from people on the campaign trail.
“Naghalin ang pagtantyar ko sang akon padaog sa akon paglibot-libot. Ginabasehan ko ang pagbaton sang mga tawo. May nagasiling, ‘Congressman, gahipos lang kami pero sa imo kami maboto.’ Ini sa mga lugar nga kontrolado sang mga local leaders nga indi ta kapartido,” said Defensor./PN