MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine election officials challenged Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday to prove his allegation of irregularities in the counting of votes for vice president, where he has been overtaken by his closest rival.
They also rejected Marcos' request for a stop to the unofficial tally by an accredited citizens' watchdog, which uses the same election returns that are transmitted to the Commission on Elections.
The son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had initially led the partial count by the watchdog known by its acronym PPCRV. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the administration's candidate Rep. Leni Robredo was leading by more than 230,000 votes, putting her 0.6 points ahead of Marcos.
The tally is based on 95.5 percent of votes nationwide. Ballots from overseas Filipinos are now considered crucial in the race for vice-president.
Rodrigo Duterte, the bombastic mayor of southern Davao city, was elected the new president, based on the PPCRV results that gave him an unassailable lead.
The official count and proclamation of the president and vice-president is done by Congress, which will convene May 24.
If Marcos wins, that would put him a step away from the presidency 30 years after his late father was ousted by a public uprising amid allegations of plunder and widespread human rights abuses.
"These accusations are not true ... we are committed to being impartial, to be neutral," Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista said.
He said that any complaint will be acted upon based on evidence.
Election Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said there was no reason to stop the official count.
On Tuesday, Marcos' campaign adviser Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz said they sent an urgent request to the Elections Commission to halt the PPCRV count because it showed "an alarming and suspicious trend" contrary to independent exit polls and the campaign's estimates.
Bautista said the commission has not yet received the request as of Wednesday.
Marcos, appealed to his supporters who have been calling through social media for protest rallies to stay calm.
The Marcos family fled to Hawaii four days after the 1986 "people power" uprising, where rosary-clutching nuns and ordinary citizens knelt before tanks and protesters stuck yellow flowers into the muzzles of assault rifles of pro-government troops. His father died in exile three years later, denying any wrongdoing.
After the Marcos family returned to the Philippines in 1991, Marcos Jr. became governor, congressman and, in 2010, a senator.
President Benigno Aquino III, whose parents were democracy champions who helped topple the senior Marcos, campaigned against the junior, who has never clearly apologized for abuses of his father.