By Johanna M. Sampan Reporter And Aisha Caguiat Special To The Times
CASTING doubt on the credibility of the automated elections, especially the accuracy of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct a parallel manual count on the results of the upcoming polls.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and 16 concerned election groups said a parallel manual count is important since the poll body has removed all election safeguards.
“To restore the credibility of our electoral procedure with all the limitations and shortcomings, we call for a parallel manual count to be done in all precincts. If the Comelec has nothing to hide, we challenge it to institute manual count,” the prelate said in a weekly Church forum.
Pabillo said the parallel manual count will address the credibility issue of the automated elections, especially with the recent glitches observed in the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. If a manual count is held, precinct officials will not solely depend on the election returns (ER), he explained.
“The PCOS results should be validated by a parallel manual count in all precincts. Only then can the elections be validated beyond the shadow of any doubt,” the Manila auxiliary prelate added.
He stressed that their proposal will ensure the reliability of PCOS machines and will serve as proof on the accuracy of the results transmitted by the units.
“Kung mayroong manual count then everybody can be there. Matututukan ‘yan. Pati citizens arm, mga political parties ay malalaman kung tama yung pagboboto o hindi,” the bishop explained.
In the parallel manual count, the votes will be manually counted and the results will be compared to the tally of the PCOS machines.
Pabillo said a manual count is possible since the country is just on its second automated elections.
“I believe it can be done if they [Comelec] would want to. We Filipinos are used to manual counting anyway,” the CBCP official said.
However, the poll body said the random manual audit (RMA) should be enough to address the concerns of the bishop and other groups regarding the accuracy of the PCOS results.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they are committed primarily to conduct the RMA since it is required by the law.
“A parallel manual count is in the law but there is such a thing as RMA first, which will be done on the day of elections and immediately after the counting,” the poll chief explained.
Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law mandates the holding of a manual audit in one precinct per congressional district randomly chosen by the Comelec.
“Any difference between the automated and manual count will result in the determination of root causes and initiate a manual count for those precincts affected by the computer or procedural error,” Section 29 of the law said.
On the other hand, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said a parallel manual count could only lead to confusion.
“Hindi natin kailangan yung 100 percent parallel count. Makakagulo lang yan. Una, lumalabas parang dalawang election ang pinapatakbo mo. Pangalawa, dalawang set ng data ang gagawin mo. Yung isa binilang ng makina, yung isa binilang ng tao na baka hindi sinusunod yung [instruction sa]makina . . . so magkaka-discrepancy. Pag nagka-discrepancy, hindi na tayo matatapos,” he said.
The best thing to do, he noted, is wait for the results of the RMA since it will also assess the accuracy of the PCOS results.
“Hintayin na lang natin yung resulta ng Random Manual Audit at yun ang makakapagpatunay na tama ang bilang ng makina natin,” Jimenez said.
Last October, the commission en banc designated Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) head Henrietta de Villa and Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim as the chairman and commissioner-in-charge (CIC), respectively, of the Random Manual Audit Committee (RMAC). The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections had expressed apprehension over the reliability of PCOS machines because of the glitches reported during the conduct of mock polls.
Namfrel national Chairman Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo said if the machines malfunctioned on election day, many voters would be disenfranchised.
Meanwhile, Brillantes, also on Tuesday, said around 30 of the 52 party-list organizations whose disqualification cases have been remanded by the Supreme Court (SC) are likely to be allowed to join the polls.
Brillantes said the poll body had finished preliminary deliberations on the remanded cases and from his initial assessment, at least 30 groups qualify under the new guidelines set by the High Court.
“We might allow approximately 29 to 30 and then cancel the remaining nine or 10 although we have not agreed on it yet,” he told the reporters.
He said the commission has decided not to push through with the public re-hearing of the disqualification cases.
“We are reviewing them already and then we will vote on Thursday,” the Comelec head said.
The 39 disqualified groups that secured status quo ante orders are included in the official ballots.