There is no doubt that the PPCRV did a wonderful job as the citizens’ watchdog in the last elections. The dedication and vigilance of its volunteers and members are truly remarkable. Were it not for the PPCRV and various other church and school groups, NGOs and the Filipino people as a whole, the historic first automated election in this country would not be as “successful” as it is now generally perceived to be.
When we talk about “success” here, it refers more to the fact that automated elections actually pushed through despite the dire predictions of doomsayers and de-stabilizers to the contrary; that at least we were able to elect a new leader who is really the peoples’ choice as reflected in the pre-election surveys; and that all uncertainties regarding the continued stay of the present Malacanang occupant beyond June 30, 2010, have been removed.
It is really quite refreshing and reassuring that election results are already known in a record time of two to three days especially after our experience in previous elections when tensions and nervousness ran high over a long period of anxiety and uncertainty waiting for the final results. Nevertheless, doubts still remain about the integrity of those results.
PPCRV’s statement that there was “no systematic attempt of fraud and if there was an attempt, they failed to pull it off”, obviously refers to the canvassing of election returns (ERs) that they received and tallied showing only .07 percent discrepancies with the transmitted data of the Comelec. Definitely it does not refer to the counting of votes reflected in those ERs because under the Automated Election System (AES), people will not be able to know or see how the votes are counted. Hence the still unanswered question is: did the machines count the votes accurately? Or, are the election returns in the hands of PPCRV truly reflective of the peoples’ votes in those clustered precincts?
The only way to answer the above question is to have a parallel vote count as previously proposed, but that is too late now. Another although less effective way is the random manual audits imposed by the Comelec, but was this process undertaken? And if so, were these audits done according to rules and faithfully complied with particularly regarding the presence of all the parties concerned including the PPCRV?
It is true that majority of the Filipinos believe that the AES must be here to stay. Definitely however, majority of the Filipinos do not refer to the AES used in the last election and the agencies or the people running it. If only to improve the system for future elections and to confirm the credibility or establish the integrity of last election’s results, the Comelec must not remain in denial or congratulatory mode but must acknowledge that there were indeed flaws in the process. For one, it should heed the request of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) to fully disclose, provide data or information and/or explain the following:
1. Failure to fully cleanse the voter’s registration lists, with many legitimate voters de-listed from their polling precincts and many others unable to vote;
2. The actual number of PCOS machines that successfully transmitted and how “transmissions” were done from polling centers with many machines unable to transmit or failed to transmit altogether;
3. The magnitude of PCOS breakdowns, malfunctioning CF cards, and other technical problems;
4. The real reasons for the malfunctioning CF cards in the May 3 final testing and sealing (FTS) and whether the new CF cards were correctly reconfigured. How many of the reconfigured CF cards reached their destinations before election and how many did not? The problem arising from incorrectly configured CF cards that Comelec discovered on May 3 and the haste and limited material time for the Smartmatic to re-do the process would contribute to the erroneous counting of votes.
5. Whether a final FTS was done prior to the election and, if so, how many of the 76,340 clustered precincts were able to conduct the FTS and what is the percentage of success or accuracy? In relation to this, was the FTS in the clustered precincts witnessed by poll watchers and election watchdogs?
6. Why the use of the P30M worth of UV scanners was not fully complied with and why the Comelec website reveals only summarized election returns (ERs). The accuracy of the ERs cannot be verified unless the digitally-signed, consolidated returns from the clustered precincts are transparent on the website.
7. Why did Comelec Chairman Jose Melo start reading before the media the “first transmitted result” at 6:30 p.m. May 10 even if the polls were to be closed at 7 p.m.? Why the discrepancy in the “first transmitted results” from Western Samar and Zamboanga Sibugay when the first transmissions were officially registered from a different province at 7:30 p.m.? Western Samar was able to transmit results only on May 14.
8. Was it simple oversight, or just a case of incompetence, or was there an evil scheme to rig election results in the case of the highly-irregular storage of 67 PCOS machines in Antipolo and the reported Cagayan de Oro election returns (ER) junk shop recovery?
9. Why were CF cards – vital pieces of evidence – ordered destroyed in the face of the May 3 CF card disaster?
10. And many other questions that beg to be answered including the 153,902,003 number of voters registered by Smartmatic machines at the national canvassing center!
The successful holding of the first automated election may have ushered in a new type of people power that “overthrew the system of apathy”. But certainly it did not “overthrow the system of fraud, cheating and other election related offenses that happened during the campaign for the peoples’ votes which the Comelec and the PPCRV failed to prevent. There were still widespread incidence of vote-buying and selling, campaign overspending, black propaganda against principled candidates and other types of cheating. The validation of these frauds and violations of election laws, as well as the victory of candidates employing them were only made faster by this new type of “people power”. –Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)