MEDIA should give full attention to the ongoing manual recount of ballots cast in the 2013 local elections in Dinalupihan, Bataan. Continuous coverage of the recount may still galvanize the electorate into more vigorous action against the use by the Commission on Elections of Smartmatic’s Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in the upcoming May 2016 general elections.
Several tech-savvy individuals, notably former Comelec Commissioner and now Manila Times columnist Gus Lagman had warned against the vulnerability of the PCOS machines, especially with the elimination of many safeguards directed by law on automated election. Well, the manual recount in Dinalupihan shows that those fears did not come from thin air.
Former Rep. Tong Payumo of Bataan said it all: “In Dinalupihan, we are able to prove if the PCOS machines, at least at the local level, can be pre-programmed, hacked or tampered with.”
Tampered with? Well, there’s no other explanation after 78 bundles of neatly wrapped ballots, all unsigned by the chairmen of the boards of election inspectors, were found inside 80 ballot boxes. A ballot is dropped into the ballot boxes by the voter after voting. That several ballots were later found wrapped into a bundle inside the boxes could only mean there was human intervention or tampering.
There should be no reason to tamper with the ballots if they were accurately counted by the PCOS machines. Where’s the claimed 99.9 percent accuracy of the machines? Where did the machines get the count that resulted in the proclamation of supposed winners? Now, there’s reason to believe that the bundles of ballots could be substitutes or even fake.
The electorate should be grateful to those who have successfully pressed for a manual recount of the ballots against all odds.
“Despite the obstruction caused by the municipal election officer, the four judges who inhibited from the case, the six months it took the Supreme Court just to designate a substitute judge, and the dismissal of the protest for being one day late by Judge Amelia Malig of Pampanga, we have succeeded in having the ballot boxes opened for manual counting. The Comelec decided at both the division level and en banc to reverse the decision of Judge Malig,” Tong Payumo said.
It seems, however, that Dinalupihan isn’t the first and only town where there was a manual recount of ballots. Philippine STAR columnist (Shooting Straight) Valeriano “Bobit” Avila said that there was an earlier recount in Compostela, Cebu and it resulted in the complete reversal of the PCOS results.
“Compostela is a small town 30 kilometers from Cebu City where Mayor Quito supposedly won the 2010 elections. Despite the protests by Compostela residents who demanded that the ballot boxes be counted in the basketball court of the municipality, nothing happened. But just a month before the 2013 midterm elections Judge Estela Alma Singco of RTC Mandaue ordered the ballot boxes to be opened and lo and behold, former Mayor Gilbert Wagas won by a mile against Mayor Quino,” Bobit wrote in an email.
I’m very sure that Dinalupihan and Compostela were not the only places where Smartmatic-PCOS betrayed the electorate. Now, if only all are as vigilant for their right of suffrage as the people of those towns!
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An old friend, lawyer and former youth leader Benrome Abao, died in New Jersey a week ago.
Benrome, former president of the Far Eastern University Central Student Organization and co-founder of the Samahan ng Bagong Kabataan with Mat Defensor, was an avid federalist, perhaps even more than I am. He realized though the difficulties in pushing for
the shift to a federal form of government.
He once told me: “The concept of federalism is known only to the upper bracket of society.
We need to bring it to the grassroots. All those who believe in federalism should get together and start the propaganda movement. You and I can be part of that movement.”
‘Tol Benrome was all agog when he learned that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte supports federalism. He was so excited that he even thought of starting a fund campaign in the United States should Duterte run for president.
He wrote me some months back: “If what he did in Davao can be duplicated in the rest of the country, plus federalism, then there is hope for the kind of country we both envisioned in our youth.”
Sadly, ‘Tol Benrome died without seeing his dream come true. However, his dream lives on in every Filipino who believes that federalism is the main reform that will lift the Philippines from the morass that it has been in for decades.