Face the music, Sir

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Commission on Elections (Comelec) chief Sixto Brillantes should now admit what so many sectors have been saying all along. There were numerous glitches with the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that Smartmatic leased to the Comelec for the 2010 elections and then sold the country for the just concluded elections.

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His claim that the May 13 polls were “the best ever” flies in the face of the growing number of glitches and failures all over the country being uncovered by the hour.

Neutral foreign observers noted that there were serious deficiencies in the elections and that these had affected the conduct of the vote.

There were so many glitches that the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) even asked for a suspension of the proclamation of the winning candidates, at least until the transmission delays and technical glitches are explained to the satisfaction of all.

But of course the Comelec chief refused to listen to the UNA. Perhaps he would have been more willing to pay heed to the call if it had come from Team PNoy.

We share UNA’s fears, based on evidence they saw, that something was amiss in the transmission of election results. Their desire for Comelec and technology provider Smartmatic to explain the delay in the transmission of election results, which halted the so-called transparency server at just 69 percent 24 hours after the polls closed on May 13, expresses a legitimate and valid concern.

UNA suspects that something irregular was happening because the transmission rate was much slower than the 80 percent transmission achieved a mere five hours after the elections closed in 2010.

As we have said previously, the PCOS machines used this year had become second hand units. And the fact that all of them had been lying in storage for three years means that so many things could have gone wrong with them.

This was but one of many valid concerns from so many quarters that the Comelec under Brillantes had ignored in the run-up to the elections.

Who, after all, was not bothered by the sight, in a precinct in one province, of a “technician” using a broom handle to fix a PCOS machine that had broken down on election day?

No one will ever know if Brillantes, et al. acted to help the administration candidates. In any case the Team PNoy bets’ winning nine of the 12 Senate seats is as widely accepted as then Senator Benigno Aquino 3rd’s victory in the 2010 presidential election.

With more and more questions rising from various quarters, the very integrity of last Monday’s electoral exercise is now under a cloud of doubt. One upstanding Team PNoy senate bet, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., had initially conceded, but he might have moved to accept defeat too soon.

The latest counts from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) had the former senator somewhere at number 15 or 16, still within striking distance of the 12th and last winning slot. With so many glitches and erroneous reports cropping up, it is not unthinkable that Magsaysay may have actually won.

At least the Comelec withdrew its overzealousness by proclaiming only half the winning senate candidates yesterday. Previously, Brillantes had cockily declared that the poll body could declare all 12 winning senators by Wednesday evening, or 48 hours after the last vote was cast.

Dagdag-bawas happens in the tallying and canvassing
Former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman is right. The automation should have been in the official canvass, which takes weeks, even months in some extreme cases. It is in the canvassing processes in our elections where dagdag-bawas (add-subtract) happens. Not in the voting and in the publicly witnessed counting in the precinct. In the manual counting of ballots watchers from all political parties, the independent watchdogs, the media and foreign observers see that ballots are read one by one by the BEI teachers, each count written on black or white boards. The time gained by automating the voting and ballot counting is a mere 12 to 24 hours.

In this Smartmatic-supplied AES system with the suspicious PCOS machines transparency and public confidence of seeing how each ballot was handled in lost.

The old problem of delayed tallying in canvassing centers – the delay giving bad elements the opportunity to monkey with the figures to be transmitted onward—persists.
As a result, the transmission of results has been halted.

The release of the initial results only whetted the public’s appetite to know who had won and who had lost.

With the glitches and flaws now being revealed, those early results can rightly be questioned, especially by the candidates who believe they won, but who may be electronically cheated out of victory.

At this early stage, there remain a number of contests at the local level which were so heated that proclaiming a winner too early might be counterproductive. This is what the Comelec should avoid at all costs.

Why dismiss observers’ report?
Brillantes should not have easily dismissed the conclusion reached by the foreign observers organized by the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections. Surely they had no interest in putting the poll body in a negative light. They saw what they saw and reported it accordingly.

As of this writing, some 10 million votes remain uncounted or untallied and untransmitted. So much for the quick count that the PPCRV had conducted with the blessings of the Comelec.

Not to belabor the point, but Mr. Brillantes should not try to sweep all the ills of the last electoral exercise under the rug. There were plenty. Only a blind man can claim that what happened earlier this week was “the best ever.”
No, it was not.

Mr. Brillantes has many things to answer for—from allowing violations of the laws and illegal and unfair bidding to be held.

He must face the music.

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