Justice snags search for truth


JUST when the truth about the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines and the 2013 local election in Dinalupihan, Bataan, was unraveling, the Supreme Court stepped in and ended the manual recount of ballots.

The ramifications of a real manual recount of ballots go beyond the municipality of Dinalupihan. If it could be proved that the PCOS machines used in that town had been tampered with or pre-programmed, then there’s a great possibility that the same could have been done with other PCOS machines all over the country.

On the other hand, if the results of the manual counting of ballots coincide with that by the PCOS machines, then all doubts about the credibility of the previous elections would be erased.

As former Bataan Rep. Tong Payumo said: “If the manual count matched the PCOS, we shall forever hold our peace.”

Tong is uncle of former Dinalupihan Mayor Jose Payumo who sought the manual recount in protesting the proclamation of Mayor Gila Garcia. The Commission on Elections en banc approved the manual recount after overturning the decision of RTC Judge Marideth Malig of Guagua, Pampanga dismissing the protest.

Alas, the search for truth seems to have hit a roadblock.

The Supreme Court has stopped the manual recount of the ballots in upholding Malig’s dismissal of Payumo’s protest case for having been filed a day late. This came after Garcia came out with a new document purporting to show that she was proclaimed a day earlier than what was shown by the Comelec records.

The moves of Garcia blocking the manual recount don’t jibe with those of one who won fair and square. She should have been so confident of her victory that she would even facilitate the manual count to erase all doubts about her mandate.

Indeed, doubts about the PCOS and her mandate had surfaced as soon as the manual count of ballots had started. Photos of neatly wrapped bundles of ballots found inside 78 of 80 ballot boxes gave rise to suspicions that there had been tampering. If there’s tampering, then the mandate of Garcia and the reliability of the PCOS machines will be severely questioned.

The great tragedy here is that justice has served not to find the truth but to mask it. The losers are not just the Payumos. Those who seek the truth are the greater losers. And if the country continues to use machines that could be pre-programmed and tampered with, the electorate will also be losers.

The results of the 2010 and 2013 elections had been questioned because the Comelec did away with the safety nets imposed by the Automated Election System law. Until now, I’m still in great disbelief that Grace Poe’s topped the senatorial election and that Bam Aquino was among the winners.

I read with interest the Manila Times column of Gus Lagman last August 12 about the tallying of Poe’s votes. Gus Lagman, a techie and former Comelec commissioner, gave the following data: In May 18, 2013, with only 42% of the votes canvassed, she already garnered 20,147,423 votes.”

Gus Lagman said the voter turnout was 39 million. I made a quick calculation and found out that 42 percent of 39 million votes is equal to 16.38 million. So, how come she was credited with 20,147,423 votes?

That’s not only the mystery bared by Gus Lagman. He wrote, and this is a real shocker: “And then, in the June 11 report, her total votes went down to 16,340,333. No explanation that I know of.”

The 2016 general election is barely nine months away. The Comelec, citing lack of material time, is veering towards using the refurbished PCOS machines again. This despite assurances by Filipino IT experts that they can come out with a hybrid system that could out-perform the PCOS machines of Smartmatic.

I thought that Smartmatic has had several brushes with other governments and has even been discredited. What’s with this company that the Comelec is even allowing it to be operated without the safeguards imposed by law? Why is it so powerful that it could make the government deaf to the protests of IT experts?

Perhaps, such protests against PCOS, such doubts on election results, had it been conclusively shown that PCOS couldn’t be tampered with, couldn’t be pre-programmed. A great opportunity for such has been lost, but hopefully, not irretrievably.



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