THE manual recount of the ballots in Dinalupihan, Bataan is getting to be an eye-opener. It offers an A-I exhibit for those who have been doubting the authenticity of the 2013 election results churned out by the Precinct Count Optical Machines of Smartmatic Philippines. To those who still believe that PCOS machines are fool-proof or tamper-proof, go to Dinalupihan with eyes wide open and know the truth.
The truth has been staring in the face of everybody witnessing the manual recount of ballots ordered by the Commission on Elections on the election results per PCOS, where Gila Garcia was declared winner over former Mayor Jojo Payumo. Now, let’s just hope that there’ll be no monkeying around with the truth, that the limited time before the next election comes will frustrate the determination of the true will of the people of Dinalupihan.
The first damning evidence against PCOS came on the first day of the manual recount of ballots when five bundles of wrapped ballots for the precincts from three barangays were found inside the office of the Municipal Election Officer. This raised suspicions that these were substitutes for the actual ballots cast by voters and originally dropped individually inside ballot boxes.
Sure, bundles of ballots were later found inside 78 of 80 ballot boxes but why were they all wrapped? And why were the bundles without the signature of the Board of Election Inspectors chairman? Somebody or a group of persons could have wrapped the ballots without signatures – unless, as one local wit commented, the PCOS machines had been programmed to automatically wrap the ballots.
Definitely, only the individuals or groups who stand to benefit could conceive of such a scheme. To those who suspect that Dinalupihan teachers could have wrapped the ballots into a bundle, well I don’t see how they could benefit from this illegal act. Further, several teachers have already signed affidavits disclaiming any participation in the wrapping of the ballots found inside the ballot boxes. This denial bolsters fears that the wrapped bundles of ballots were substitutes or fakes.
Now, if the PCOS machines are 99.9 percent accurate as required by law, then there should be no need to substitute ballots dropped into the boxes on Election Day. The count by the machines would truly reflect the choice of the voters and a manual recount should jibe with the PCOS results.
But hey, what’s this I heard that the teachers are being coerced or induced to retract their signatures on the sworn statement? In a hearing on the authentication of signatures before the Dinalupihan Regional Trial Court, one teacher affirmed that she had signed the affidavit but wanted to retract. She earned a rebuke from the RTC judge not to play around with the proceedings.
If they’re now retracting their earlier denial of participation, then they’re affirming that they were the ones who wrapped the bundles of ballots without signing on the wrappers. But, again, why wrap the ballots when they should be kept untouched inside the boxes? If they admit responsibility, then they could be charged with a serious election offense.
Sure, the mastermind and participants of the mysterious wrapping of ballots should be identified to determine culpability. But more than this, the accuracy and reliability of the PCOS has been undermined. Should the Comelec still insist on hiring Smartmatic and using its PCOS machines, then the results of the upcoming presidential election will be questionable. It should follow closely the manual recount in Dinalupihan and factor this before making any decision on what technology to use in the elections that are barely 10 months away.
There have been doubts on the results of the 2013 elections, with some saying the machines had been pre-programmed to show a 60-30-10 result. I’ve been wondering also how and why Grace Poe became No. 1, how Bam Aquino won, and how and why Migz Zubiri and Jackie Ponce Enrile lost. Many attributed this to hocus-PCOS.
Going back to the Dinalupihan manual recount, I wonder if the count on the bundled ballots coincided with those in the earlier counts on elective posts other than the contested mayoralty. If there’s a great variance, then this shouldn’t be a mere occasion for head-scratching. And what had happened in Dinalupihan could have happened also in other places.
As I said earlier, the truth is already staring us in the face – the truth that the PCOS machines could be compromised and that they should now be junked. The Comelec, the teachers and the voters should uphold and defend this truth to make sure only those who have the people’s mandate will be proclaimed winners.