Broken vote-counting machines, paper jams, rejected ballots, missing voting records, and up to six hours of standing in winding lines under the searing heat of the summer sun marked the country’s hotly contested elections in the middle of a pandemic.
Commission on Election (Comelec) Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, appointed just two months ago, described the political exercise as “quite peaceful” even as scattered violent incidents were reported in Lanao del Sur province.
In its report, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections also noted that violations of health and safety protocols and unlawful electioneering were also the most persistent offenses and irregularities throughout the voting period. There were also issues involving “vulnerable sectors” voting in the emergency accessible polling places, it said.
Survey frontrunner for president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., only son and namesake of the late dictator, and Vice President Leni Robredo, who had been placing a far second, slugged it out in a heated campaign in the run-up to the polls and are expected to continue the fight for the final win in the 10-way contest.
Marcos, who voted in the morning in his hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte, did not issue a statement after casting his ballot. A calm Robredo, on the other hand, told reporters after voting in Margarao town in her home province of Camarines Sur that she had done her best.
If Marcos Jr.’s running mate, Sara Duterte, also delivers as pre-election surveys have predicted, it would be a total defeat for the Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem.
Based on an unofficial count of the votes, the Marcos-Duterte team is leading, along with most of the senatorial candidates in its slate.
Some of what is expected to be a record number of voters — including some seven million first-timers and 1.6 million overseas Filipinos — showed up in droves at polling centers hours before these even officially opened at 6 a.m.
Edelyn Andaya, a mother of three, was first in line with her brother at the Batasan National High School in Quezon City where she arrived at 4 a.m. to avoid what she expected to be a long line of voters.
Truck driver JR Camiling, 33, arrived at the Juan Sumulong High School in Cubao three minutes before the 13-hour voting period officially closed.
“Sayang naman po eh, kung hindi po ako makaboboto. Ito po ‘yung first time, kasi bumoboto po ako since 18 years old ako,” he said, adding that he had come straight from work in Lucena, Quezon. He explained that he was dedicating his vote to his children so that they can have a better life under a new administration.
“So overwhelmed by the number of people flocking the polling areas. This is despite the pandemic threat. Democracy is alive in our country,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said in a Viber message.
But when precincts closed as scheduled at 7p.m., most voters in Brgy. Teachers Village East in Quezon City were still unable to cast their ballots. Only one VCM was working as early as 6:30 a.m., but the people inside refused to vote manually as suggested by the election officers. It was the same scenario at the President Corazon Aquino Elementary School, also in Quezon City, where voters continued to wait for the replacement for defective VCMs as late as 8 pm.
Despite the glitches, unofficial counting of votes began almost as soon as the country’s 412,876 precincts closed. The Comelec, however, will not start canvassing until the afternoon of the following day. It earlier said that results of the race for the 12 seats at stake in the Senate and some 18,000 local positions would be known sooner than those for the top two national posts, which could take a few days.
The Comelec has also announced that it would release tomorrow its decision on the disqualification cases filed against Marcos Jr. If he and Duterte win in the elections but Marcos Jr. is eventually disqualified with finality, the country will have its third woman president.
Otherwise, we have another Marcos for the next six years. –Nica Rhiana Hanopol, Blanch Ancla, Ivel John M. Santos, Elijah Roderos, Agatha Mateo, Valerie Nuval, Tita Valderama, Meeko Angela Camba, Elma M. Sandoval, Enrico Berdos, Ellen Tordesillas, Chi Liquicia, Merinette Retona, Bryan Manalang, Celine Isabelle Samson
Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Duterte’s first name.