THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its allies did not fail to say recently that we have had a very successful 2016 national and local elections (NLEs). But we never heard them saying that the automated election system (AES) implemented in the past three NLEs had been compliant with all the provisions of the AES law or RA 9369. The truth is, Comelec has never complied with the said law. So what was the implication for not complying with the AES law? Simple—the AES implemented was vulnerable to cheating!
It’s very clear in the AES Law that the automated polls should be certified by the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) three months before the elections. When did the TEC release their certification? That was done two days after AES Watch had a news briefing on April 28 pronouncing that Comelec was ill-prepared, not compliant with the AES law, and that the AES was not TEC-certified yet! Subsequently, with additional pressure from former Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal on April 29, Comelec admitted for not having the TEC certification. OMG!
Hence, the TEC hurriedly prepared and submitted the AES certification to Comelec on April 30 but the news about it was published barely a few days before elections. In effect, the pre-election activities done by Comelec before April 30 (i.e., Overseas Absentee Voting, Mock Elections, Field Testing, Final Testing and Sealing, etc.) are technically void because the AES was not yet certified then! The non-TEC certification days before the elections is a very clear indication how ill-prepared Comelec was.
After the elections, AES Watch again held a press briefing on May 11. Let me just share what was their statement then and this can also be viewed at <www.cenpeg.org>:
Amidst the ecstatic jubilation of winners and their followers and the usual congratulations from PPCRV and some foreign observers, all is not well with the re-designed and uncertified poll automation system for 2016.
The pressures and noise put up by the vigilance of watchdogs, expert observers and the critical public over pre-election and election day system non-compliances or violations of law by Comelec and Smartmatic exposed the vulnerabilities for cheating of the re-designed and uncertified poll automation system for 2016—actual hacking, mismatched results, candidates’ names missing, VCMs in undisclosed areas, un-expurgated voters’ list and the No Biometrics, No Vote rule; discrepancies between voter intent and VVPAT/voter receipt; questionable transmission rule on physical importation of all SD cards from the VCMs to the canvassing centers to qualify for electronic transmission, no replacement ballots and VCMs, among others, repeated and in a more widespread scale, the glitches and uncertainties of the old PCOS in 2010 and 2013.
Moreover, the Comelec and its foreign provider now found convenient excuses—through new rules and resolutions—to cover up deceptive outcomes and ill-preparedness of the Comelec in the 2016 automated polls.
We owe it to voters’ and poll watch groups’ vigilance that what could have been a major election disaster characterized by fraud at the national level was mitigated. Contrary to claims of the PPCRV and some foreign observers, however, the elections was far from being a “success” as far as the automation system is concerned—it was even worst compared to the 2010 and 2013 automated elections.
After two automated elections, the third was like on a test run mode again with the passengers (voters) subjected to stress, uncertainties, harassment, long queues and fatigue, and even heat strokes. If automation was supposed to make voting friendly, fast, and convenient, why was voting in thousands of precincts delayed, thousands of vote counting machines (VCMs) broke down leading to voter disenfranchisement, and transmission of ERs foiled by glitches with many BEIs ill-equipped in troubleshooting due to lack of Comelec contingency measures?
In 2010, 9 percent of PCOS machines failed to transmit ERs; in 2013, transmission failures hit 23 percent of PCOS machines, thus technically disenfranchising 8.6 million voters. Last May 9, 2,500 VCMs (with 184 alone in Caraga, La Union, and in the OAV centers) malfunctioned, affecting 1.5 million voters, with manual voting resorted to in many voting areas all over the country. All SD cards from 92,509 clustered precincts, whether transmitted or not, were “imported” to the C/MBOCs, thus opening the system to data manipulation and election rigging. How many ERs were transmitted to be used as a basis for proclaiming election winners is the big question.
The Comelec had all three years to prepare for the last elections, so that to reason that it had limited time to conduct the exercise is unacceptable. The poll body’s announcement weeks before the election that it was 100 percent ready was deceptive. In truth, it was ill-prepared and wasted valuable time for the following reasons:
• TEC certification (which includes completion of source code reviews, successful field tests and mock elections) was delayed for three months and was issued only a few days before election;
• Voter registration remained fraught with missing names of active voters while those already deceased were still in the list;
• Comelec was non-transparent (no reports were actually released) on whether the May 2 – 6 FTS, which was marred by discrepancies and machine failures, was ever completed; likewise, with regard to the field tests and mock elections;
• Unresolved poor telecommunications infrastructures which compelled the Comelec to issue Resolution 10083 mandating the manual delivery of all 92,509 SD cards;
• Repeated non-compliance with the minimum system requirements such as digital signatures by the BEIs and BOCs, and the absence of an IRR for RA 8436 or RA 9369 (i.e., amended RA 8436) after 19 years or nine years of the election modernization law.
With billions of taxpayers’ money spent after three automated elections—much of it going to Smartmatic; 80,000 PCOS machines in a garbage dump, otherwise called “warehouse” in Laguna, brazen non- or token compliance with the election law, and unaudited expenditures, it’s about time for Smartmatic to call it quits and for Comelec to be made into account. It’s about time to review the election modernization law.
We call on independent poll watch groups as well as Congress particularly the JCOC on AES to investigate and call for full disclosure on the ill preparedness of the Comelec on complying with the minimum system requirements of the Automation law which caused high-wired tensions, confusion and irregularities, uncertain election numbers and, more importantly, widespread disenfranchisement of voters around the country. Not to forget the Novotel expose of VCMs allegedly stored mysteriously inside rooms reminiscent of the 2010 Antipolo incident where the discovery of 60 PCOS machines inside a house caused uproar on possible fraud.
While we continue to cheer over the fast results, who would ever know if the votes were actually counted right with the complexities of the election system that before election days was never certified, fully tested and continue to conk out even after the seal of the machines had been open for election day? To this day, the issues of pre-programming, 60-30-10 vote pattern, and other irregularities in previous elections have not been fully resolved and will never will be.
As we go to the national canvassing, we ask the full disclosure of the transmission results and the physical transportation of the SD cards to the canvassing which would work magic to the numbers of the results.
As euphoria over the fast results dies down, we ask for the investigation of the continued non-compliances of the poll automation law and ask for its amendments, even its repeal for the continued intransigence of the election manager to comply.
We challenge the incoming administration to BEGIN the reform of the election system to make it transparent, accountable, secured, and accurate.”