Comelec: No special treatment for ex-VP Binay in ballot issue

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, May 13, denied it gave special treatment to former vice president Jejomar Binay when no less than a Comelec director accompanied him as he tried to vote again.

Binay had to cast his ballot in a new vote-counting machine (VCM) in a Makati City polling precinct, after an earlier VCM malfunctioned and rejected his ballot. (READ: Malfunctioning machines delay voting for Binays in Makati)

He was able to vote after he personally complained to the Comelec in its temporary headquarters at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). He was accompanied back to his precinct by Comelec Director Frances Arabe of the poll body's Election and Information Department.

In a press conference on Monday, Arabe explained that she went with Binay to Makati City so that the Comelec would know the "true facts." She said that when Binay visited the PICC on Monday morning, it so happened that only she and Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez were there.

"In order for us to know the true facts, so we can also address his complaints, we had to go personally to the polling place to talk to the electoral board. Luckily the election officer of Comelec was also there, so they were able to handle it," Arabe said.

"Sila na ang nag-handle ng situation. Bystander na lang po kami, ako, doon sa polling place kanina," she added. (It was they who handled the situation. I was just a bystander in the polling place a while ago.)

Jimenez said: "The main point here is that there was no intervention on the part of Director Arabe in the process, in the solution. We needed to get eyes on the problem so that we're not holding secondhand information."

The Comelec drew flak on social media for the way it accommodated Binay, when the poll body has established procedures for ballot-related issues. (READ: What to do when the vote-counting machine rejects your ballot)

On Twitter, election lawyer Emilio Marañon III said: "I am sorry but why is Binay getting a special treatment? There is a grievance procedure for ballot rejections. No one gets to demand anything outside of this procedure."

Defective machines on Monday affected not only Binay, but also reelectionist Senator Grace Poe and other voters in this year's elections. The Comelec said 400 to 600 VCMs had to be replaced this year, topping the figures in the 2016 polls. – Rappler.com

Follow Rappler's full coverage of the 2019 Philippine elections here.

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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