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With Due Respect

PPCRV at 25, a changing of the guard

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is marking its silver jubilee on Wednesday, Oct. 19, with a Holy Mass officiated by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, capped by the retirement rites of its iconic chair, Ambassador Henrietta “Tita” T. de Villa.

Two initial missions. The PPCRV was born in 1991 as the laity’s response to the challenge of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) urging lay leaders to help preserve our democracy.

“Lawmaking” in the Catholic Church was traditionally reserved exclusively to the hierarchy. PCP II ushered a momentous first in the Church’s 2,000-year history: The laity was invited by the hierarchy to participate in legislating and implementing in the Philippines the reforms of the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II.

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Led by Tita, 145 lay leaders actively took part in the historic daily 12-hour sessions of the PCP II at the San Carlos Lay Formation Center in Makati on Jan. 20-Feb. 17, 1991.

And led also by Tita, the lay faithful—assisted by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin—organized the PPCRV to ensure clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections, known by the acronym “Champ.”

As a PCP II delegate, I was chosen—though completely unworthy—to be the PPCRV’s national vice-chair and chief legal counsel, a pro bono post I held until 1995 when I joined the Supreme Court.

Initially, the PPCRV had a twofold mission: 1) voter education nationwide and 2) poll-watching in every polling precinct. The PPCRV harnessed an unpaid army of 700,000 volunteers from Catholic parishes nationwide.

Third mission. With the advent of computerized polls in 2010, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), under the headship of retired Supreme Court Justice Jose A. R. Melo, mandated a third PPCRV mission: to conduct an “unofficial parallel count.”

To accomplish this mission, the PPCRV was given one of the eight copies of the election returns printed by all PCOS machines (now called vote-counting machines or VCMs) used in the 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections, before the results thereof were transmitted to the Comelec (and other official agencies responsible for the official count).

To quote Ana de Villa Singson, PPCRV media director, “We [had] the purest election data yielded by the machine before the data could be corrupted, intercepted, jammed while [they were] in the netherworld being transmitted from the polling precincts nationwide to the Manila-based Comelec Transparency Server.”

Incredibly, the PPCRV outdid the Comelec in weighing the results of the 2013 senatorial elections. Due to transmission and routing issues, the Comelec Transparency Server received the transmitted election data from only 77.2 percent of all polling precincts.

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On this woefully insufficient count, the Comelec proclaimed the senatorial winners, a proclamation I thought was illegal. (See my column titled “Premature, imprudent and illegal,” 5/19/13). Notably, the certificates of canvass used in the proclamation were as sorely lacking as the Comelec’s precinct-based count. Nonetheless, due to the absence of official protests from the losing candidates, the proclamation remained a fait accompli.

In stark contrast, the PPCRV—using its eighth copy—was able to encode an additional 15.45 percent (from 12,079 additional polling precincts) of the vote, thereby completing 91.8 percent of the total votes cast, much higher than Comelec’s meager 77.2 percent.

In equally good hands. During the elections on May 9, 2016, the PPCRV count was faster and more accurate than the Comelec count, impelling losing vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos to ask the PPCRV to shut down its operations due to alleged vote trending.

The request was politely turned down since the reason given was completely wrong. Instead, the PPCRV, true to its nonpartisan stance, shared its transparent data with Marcos.

Tita will retire confident that her beloved PPCRV will be in the mighty good hands of an equally dedicated chair, former Comelec commissioner and constitution maker Rene V. Sarmiento. Cheers!

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

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TAGS: Comelec, Elections, Henrietta de Villa, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, PCP II, PPCRV, Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, Tita de Villa, vote-counting machines
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