DAVAO CITY—The day after the elections, teachers belonging to the random manual audit team (RMAT) assigned to check the ballot count of selected precincts in Davao City were in an uproar.
They complained that they had been made to wait since the Saturday before the elections for their assigned precincts. But it was only in the afternoon of Tuesday, May 11, when they were finally assigned the precincts where they were to make the manual random count.
“We just wanted to complete our task,” said RMAT member Grace Dugiles, disbursing officer from Mintal Comprehensive High School.
“(RMAT) will determine the performance of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan machines),” said provincial election supervisor for Davao del Sur lawyer Febes Barlaan, who instructed the team.
RMAT helped determine whether the votes in the ballots matched the count made by the PCOS machine by manually counting the votes for specific national and local positions.
By the time Dugiles’ team got their precinct assignments, at least 80 percent of the ballot boxes had already been taken to the Almendras gym for the city canvassing that had started at the city council building the night right after the elections.
“(Manual counting) should happen in the polling precincts,” Dugiles said.
Raul Kabilugan, fourth year TLE teacher from the same school, said this was what they were told during the Commission on Elections (Comelec) orientations. This was a window for ballot tampering that the rules on manual audit were supposed to avoid.
When Dugiles’ team arrived at the city council building, obstacles continued. No watcher or lawyer from political parties and candidates showed up as witnesses, a requirement of the manual audit. Then they were told by Barlaan that they couldn’t start the counting process because they had to wait for the proclamation of winners.
It was then that the confused and frustrated teachers became irate. When Davao Today, other members of the media, and watchers of different political parties and candidates arrived, the teachers were in the middle of a heated discussion with city council personnel. The latter refused to let them go home because a number of ballot boxes were already in the RMAT’s custody.
In an interview with Davao Today, Barlaan said it was the city treasurer’s office that initially refused the RMAT access to the ballot boxes. “Baka daw mamisinterpret (It might be misinterpreted),” he said.
Barlaan also did not see any problem about the manual audit being done at the city council building, instead of the precincts “as long as the RMAT completed their task.”
The teachers finally got in touch with Lawyer Marlon Cascejo, Comelec assistant regional director, who told them to go ahead with the manual audit.
Barlaan said the delays in assigning polling precincts to the RMAT happened because instructions from the national office came late. “They (RMAT) could not do their job at the height of the heated elections,” Barlaan added.
Forty-five teachers made up the random manual audit teams in Davao City. They were composed of five teams of three members each for the city’s three districts. They made the manual count in five randomly selected precincts (not precinct clusters) with voters ranging from 200 to 1,000. Positions manually audited were those of the president, vice president, congressmen, governors and mayors. ( CJ Kuizon/davaotoday.com)