“Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections should be held accountable for non-compliance to and violations of automated election laws and the unconscionable expenses for a defective and non-transparent foreign-controlled voting technology” – Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Brashly fending off criticisms, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. had repeatedly praised the recently concluded mid-term elections. Yet, to this day, questions hound the election’s results, and the demand for actions to dispel the doubts continue to be directed at President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino Jr. Various groups including election watchdogs, progressive mass organizations, church people, and some solons have aired calls for a full manual count, for auditing the election results, for scrutinizing the transmitted election returns and junking the PCOS machines and for investigating the Comelec itself.
Leaders of progressive groups also questioned President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s silence on the issue. They accuse Aquino of being the “biggest beneficiary” of the automated election fraud. They warned the public that after consolidating his political influence, Aquino would now make the most of his term’s second half to ram through laws, policies, programs and decisions that the people have long opposed. These include fare and utility fee hikes, more privatization, and the so-called Public-Private Partnership projects.
But even as Brillantes of Comelec and President Aquino are seen as hastening to put the 2013 elections behind us, to go back to business as usual such as discussing the barangay elections and whether or not the PCOS shall be used again in 2016, various groups refuse to put the issues of midterm elections behind them.
Last Friday, a coalition of public and private sector workers from KPMM (Koalisyon ng Progresibong Manggagawa at Mamamayan) trooped to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang demanding the “junking��� of the fraud-ridden Automated Elections System (AES). Leaders of the coalition claimed the result of the 2013 elections merely “confirms fears that widespread fraud was carried out through the AES.”
“Automation did not end electoral fraud, which had characterized Philippine elections in the past,” Sammy Malunes, spokesman of KPMM, told Bulatlat.com. On the contrary, AES, he said, only made fraud more widespread yet more difficult to track.
This weekend, seven party list representatives under the Makabayan Coalition in the House of Representatives vowed to press for a thorough congressional investigation on the Comelec’s removal of key AES safeguards such as the source code review. They said they are also going to probe the massive glitches and transmission failures of PCOS machines, the 60-30-10 vote pattern, discrepancies found in the random manual audits and other violations of automated elections laws.
At the same time, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has rejected Brillantes’ dismissal of their criticisms of the 2013 polls. Brillantes had told the CBCP to mind its tasks in the Church and let the Comelec mind its task in the polls. But as CBCP President Archbishop Jose Palma insisted, the Comelec has the responsibility to clarify the concerns aired by various election watchdogs.
Much like what the election watchdogs have said, the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace last week also described the recent mid-term national elections as a mockery of the country’s democratic process. They said the “ineptitude” of the poll body rendered the election results “questionable.”
The week after the elections, amid Comelec’s hasty proclamation of senators based on “projection” of their votes rather than the results of the completed canvassing, various election watchdogs shared their assessment of the 2013 poll automation. They described it as “a travesty,” a “technological and political disaster” traceable to Comelec’s actions.
On the first week of June, a report on the random audit of election results would reportedly be released, as Henrietta De Villa, Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said. De Villa also chairs the Random Manual Audit Committee.
De Villa said that out of the 234 precincts that underwent RMA (random manual audit), 201 precincts have already submitted their reports. From these reports, she shared there was basis for 145 ballot boxes to be called in due to “variances”. She reportedly said these are mostly due to clerical or human appreciation errors, and that “machines don’t cheat.” To which Ernesto del Rosario, member of election watchdog AS Watch, commented: “Yes, machines do not cheat indeed but these machines are like robots. They obey 100-percent what people command (program) them to do.” Ernesto del Rosario is the former director of the IT department of Comelec under Chairman Melo. He resigned over issues of AES compliance by the comelec.
If machines do not cheat and it is the programmers who can, Filipino voters have little to no control now, unfortunately, after the Comelec disabled the security precautions prescribed by the AES law. Fueling protests now is the realization that the votes supposedly counted and transmitted by these machines may have been manipulated.
For AES Watch, the “variances” that Brillantes predictably dismissed as nothing to be alarmed about are just suggestive of the questions on the election results. AES Watch said the “random manual audit” being done by the PPCRV “is neither a true audit nor a random one.”
In an email to Bulatlat.com, AES Watch said this “PPCRV-concocted RMA” used a statistically wrong sample size (compared to total number of PCOS machines from which the sample should have been picked out), for the national elections at least.
AES Watch explained that there are only two kinds of audit: a 100-percent audit or one that is based on a randomly selected sampling with a statistically-acceptable sampling size.
Worse, the so-called random manual audit is not that random, too, said AES Watch, explaining that the required samples were not randomly selected from the population (of 78,000 PCOS units) and that there had been a significant time before the elections when the PCOS to be subjected to an RMA were already known.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, vice chair of the House Suffrage Committee, announced that the Makabayan bloc’s seven party list representatives in Congress will file bills calling for congressional investigations on the 2013 automated elections and the junking of Smartmatic’s PCOS machines.
“Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections should be held accountable for non-compliance to and violations of automated election laws and the unconscionable expenses for a defective and non-transparent foreign-controlled voting technology,” Colmenares said.
He accused the Comelec and Smartmatic of having joined forces to deceive the people, saying, as an example, that the PCOS source code has been turned over to the Philippines before the 2010 elections when it was not true. In fact, he said, it was only delivered in May 2013, too late to be reviewed and corrected for possible glitches and fraud.
The AES Watch also objected to the use of the word “glitches” in connection to what happened in the May 2013 elections. A glitch is defined as a minor malfunction, the election watchdog said. What then, it asked, was a major malfunction? In the context of 2013 election, they said “glitch” was used inappropriately that it was an (understandable) “invention” of Smartmatic.