The race for vice-presidency: A stand-off

Posted at 05/18/10 12:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The race to the vice-presidency is a tight one, and one that's far from over.
As the dominant minority party, the Liberal Party (LP) is entitled to a copy of Certificates of Canvass (COCs). Based on 81% of completed COCs from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and reports from the field on the remaining 19% of COCs, the LP says its vice-presidential bet Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas has a 130,000-vote advantage over Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.
Former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz has made light of the tight race for the vice-presidency, saying Roxas will win by 200,000 votes, a margin as slim as the hairline of LP campaign manager Florencio "Butch" Abad. (Click here for story.)

Roxas' hairline win

Such projections of a hairline win have raised a howl from the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).
"They're saying that out of this 81% [COCs], Mar Roxas is leading by 137,404.  This is definitely manipulated figures," says Atty. Jose Virgilio "JV" Bautista of the PMP.  "In this race there has never been a single instance that Roxas had more votes than Binay, and the only exceptional instance was in the count of Bantay Balota."

Binay's lead

Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Monday, Bautista contends, based on more than 98% of the Comelec count, results in the form of election returns from 76,000 precincts throughout the country, Binay's substantial lead over Roxas cannot be overcome.
"As of Comelec's last count, Jojo Binay is leading over Mar Roxas with 717, 141 votes and that most likely will be the margin of victory of Jojo Binay. This is not a tight race," Bautista insists. "This is a race that Jojo Binay led from the beginning and will win up to the end."

A close fight

But Atty. Ronald Solis, a member of the Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota, begs to disagree. "This is a close fight.  We're not saying we've won the elections. We're not claiming victory as of yet.  What we're saying is no candidate at this point in time should say he's already won the vice-presidency.  There's a process where these votes will be counted."
Solis notes Congress will convene on May 24 and will conduct the official tally sitting as the National Board of Canvassers.
While the Comelec has stopped canvassing election results, Solis says, the poll body has yet to count an estimated 3.5 million votes, and uncounted votes from Roxas' bailiwicks may just spell a win for him.
But given Binay's consistent lead, Bautista believes, the difference might just be a lost cause. He cites the Comelec's count, which at 98% of the votes canvassed, excludes Lanao province.
"Binay is going to win the elections by 727,141.  With this kind of a lead, it won't matter anymore.  Ask any statistician," Bautista says. "If the Bantay Balota will only do its homework it can access the same figures and not stick to 81% [of COCs]."

Conditioning the public's mind?

Amid different projections, the LP and the PMP are accusing either camp of misleading the public into believing the race is going in their favor.
"If they want to fool themselves and hope for a win for Mar Roxas, we have no problem with that," Bautista says.  "But if they condition the mind of the public that Senator Roxas is going to win the elections, and if Binay wins it, something wrong happened, that's where the problem lies.  And we will not allow that."
Amid such questions, Solis urges Bautista and his camp to rely on the facts. "They're saying we're trying to condition the minds of the public.  But what is the basis of Bautista? Trending and predictive modes.  We base our counts on completed COCs,"  Solis says.
It may sound like the word of one opposition party against the other, but amid the number-crunching and the seeming confusion, what's clear is that the vice-presidential race is one that neither the LP nor the PMP is willing to concede.