I HAD not planned on voting. But in the wee hours of May 10, listening to dzMM “Teleradyo,” I decided to check the Comelec website’s precinct finder to see if my name was there. It labeled my status as “active.” I checked the voters’ list for my precinct, and there I was as part of the official list of voters for May 9, 2016.
This was strange for two reasons. One, I deliberately did not do biometrics because I did not want to vote in this election. Comelec went all out claiming “No Bio No Boto!” and I took it to mean that since I had no biometrics—not even partial or incomplete data—this would remove my name completely from the voters’ list.
But, apparently, if you voted in the 2010 and/or the 2013 elections, you would remain on the voters’ list. Which brings me to the next strange thing: my parents, who both voted in 2010, had been removed from the list.
I called the Comelec hotline, which only confirmed what was already online. I went to my precinct at 3:30 p.m., and was out of there in 10 minutes max: it was quick and painless.
But also it was absurd. On the voters’ list with the BEI, right beside my name and where I’m supposed to sign, there was nothing: no photo, no fingerprints, no signature. No indication that I am who I say I am. Anyone could’ve come in with my ID and voted in my place.
Loopholes and misinformation
One also wonders how many people decided not to vote, believing that “No Bio No Boto” campaign. One wonders how Comelec decided to “cleanse” its list: some people who had voted the past two elections were delisted, others who did biometrics were not on the list. And then there was just the more visible disenfranchisement: senior citizens and PWDs being forced to go up two, three, four floors; machine breakdowns forcing people to go home after waiting for hours. TV and social media, including election watchdogs, could but capture a fraction of these problems.
The Comelec has fallen back on the fact that foreign observers had said this was “a generally orderly and peaceful election” (GMANetwork.com, 12 May). But that is not equal to “secure, or honest, or clean elections,” yes?
Because even before May 9 so many irregularities were already being reported and Comelec either didn’t answer questions, or merely brushed these off.
Three days before the elections, lawyers of the Poe-Chiz camp asked about the unexplained dismissal of hundreds of VCM technicians who had already undergone training for the May 9 elections (Interaksyon.com, 6 May). Comelec replied that these technicians were not “fired,” they just did not pass the tests (Rappler.com, 7 May). On the fact that they were removed so close to the elections, the tangential response was that the machines “will be operated not by technicians, but only by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and election officers” (Rappler.com, 7 May). In Lanao del Norte, teachers backed out as BEIs; 200 policemen replaced them (Daily Tribune, 7 May). On radio, reports were aplenty about vote-buying and -selling in the provinces.
Comelec itself has since admitted that 2,363 VCMs throughout the country malfunctioned on May 9, with at least 150 units replaced (KontraDaya.org, 11 May). It has scheduled special elections for 17,600 disenfranchised voters (Rappler.com, 11 May) in 52 polling precincts.
These admissions of failures and problems on election day are spun by Comelec with assertions as to whether or not these “materially affect results.” Spokesperson James Jimenez has said of the disenfranchised voters: “Again, this only affects 17,000 voters. So while the vote means the world to everyone, you have to look at it in the context of the bigger picture” (Rappler.com, 11 May).
But the bigger picture is just as grim.
Comelec took pride in the 90 percent transmission rate it reported by May 9. But an undisclosed number of VCMs “could not transmit from precincts as promised by Smartmatic <and> many election returns were brought to the canvassing centers where the SD cards were manually uploaded. These would appear in the Comelec transparency servers as “transmitted results” (KontraDaya.org, 11 May) even when these weren’t in fact transmitted.
Leni Robredo said in her May 10 news conference: “Ngayon po kasi automated na ang ating eleksyon. Napakahirap naman mandaya na wala nang human intervention ang eleksyon” (CNN Philippines, 10 May).
But human intervention is actually allowed by Comelec via Resolution 10083, which “directs all SD cards ‘imported’ from the 92,509 precinct VCMs to the city/municipality board of canvassers (C/MBOCs). This means, precinct-transmitted ERs will no longer be the basis for proclamation but SD cards manually delivered to the C/MBOCs” (CenPeg.org, 5 May).
Center for People’s Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg) director Prof. Bobby M. Tuazon asserts that Resolution 10083 “virtually subjects the election to manipulation, switching, and snatching—reminiscent of ballot box thefts under the manual system.” (5 May)
Robredo’s camp has said: “Let us respect the process. The people have spoken. It is clear that Congresswoman Leni Robredo has retained her lead. Let us respect the democratic exercise, and unite so we can move on and serve the nation” (Philippine Star, 12 May).
But there is nothing democratic about an exercise that is not transparent and not secure, and which in the end just puts into questions ALL election results, beyond the VP race.
Successful = clean and credible
“Comelec’s claim of ‘success’ for the May 10 automated election was based principally on the speedy results with a high percentage of election returns already canvassed and winners known in a few hours up to a couple of days, as both the poll body and Smartmatic claimed. The quick results also seemed to match pre-election surveys particularly on the presidential race. Speed thus became the yardstick of ‘success’ to the extent that may people overlooked what really happened on the ground. A full grasp of ground realities would have provided a more objective perspective on how to appraise the conduct of the automated election.”
That’s from the CenPeg Report on the May 2010 automated elections (page 23).
We could say the same of the 2016 Elections.