Smartmatic, supplier of the twice-manipulated Precinct Count Optical Scan vote counting and canvassing system, claims it owns the PCOS technology and is the only one legally allowed to maintain it. If that’s true, the Commission on Elections must move now to use a different method of voting and tabulation, even a return to manual count.
If the Comelec won’t, it would justify drastic measures to protect Philippine democracy. That’s what Filipinos rightly did when the Marcos dictatorship stole the 1986 elections. We should too if the 2016 polls again falls in the hands of the company that handled the past two polls, in which the Comelec dispensed with indispensable, legally mandated PCOS safeguards.
Thankfully, the man who negated controls in 2013, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, former election lawyer of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, ends his term in February. But Aquino may well choose a successor who would do as Brillantes did, and dispense with PCOS anti-fraud measures.
That led to grave irregularities in 2010 and 2013, as documented by non-partisan entities, including academic and columnist Rene Azurin in his 2013 book, Hacking Our Democracy: The Conspiracy to Electronically Control Philippine Elections.
To note just a couple of the many PCOS defects, the required electronic or digital signatures were dispensed with. Thus, Comelec servers accepted any tally from any computer with no record of where it came from.
And the very late release of the source code controlling vote tabulation, made its legally mandated review impossible. PCOS machines could have been programmed to tally votes wrongly, and no analysis was done to prevent it.
The Catholic Church and other entities knowledgeable and concerned about PCOS should hold the Comelec to a deadline for establishing a system with solid safeguards.
If it tries to delay till the nation is force to go again with PCOS and Smartmatic, then in the year before May 2016, parishes and other community groups nationwide, plus independent media, must repeatedly tell our people about past manipulation and mobilize them to oppose its repeat in 2016.
This column’s October 16 article said “if PCOS or a similar fraud-prone system would again be used, the citizenry must boycott the polls and mount civil resistance. … Electronic election fraud would not only install the ruling party’s preferred winners in national and local positions, but more dangerously, ratify constitutional amendments undermining rights, checks and balances, national security, justice, and accountability.
“Quite simply, the destruction of Philippine democracy. … Let’s pray that Filipinos stand up against PCOS III. Otherwise, we will all pay for it in 2016 and beyond.”
Three musts to save life, limb and livelihood
The nation and the government gave a collective sigh of relief when Typhoon Ruby did not pack as big a wallop like its international name Hagupit (whip in Filipino). Spared Yolanda 2, national and sectoral leaders may again lose political will and urgency in implementing needed initiatives for disaster readiness, response, and risk reduction.
DR4 efforts don’t make headlines or win votes, and are little appreciated by the public. So politicians don’t care much for them. Hence, in January 2012 and 2013, this writer, who was Cabinet secretary tasked with recovery planning after the 2009 Ondoy and Pepeng floods, urged President Aquino to mobilize LGUs for DR4.
Also urged by many concerned observers is the full funding and implementation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. The NDRRM law mandated an upgraded Office of Civil Defense (OCD) with a billion-peso budget and a mission to replicate America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and spearhead disaster readiness and capability building of local government units.
Another must is the speedy rollout of the billion-peso People Survival Fund, enacted in 2012 but with no PSF releases after more than a year, as media found out amid the Yolanda disaster. Two months ago, Climate Change Commission Vice-Chairman and Secretary Lucille Sering, a capable environment official overseeing the fund, said P40 million would be provided to at least 300 municipalities till 2016.
There’s no zero missing in the amount: it is P40 million, just 4 percent of the billion-peso PSF. And OCD is nowhere near the FEMA-type calamity response and training agency envisioned in the NDRRM Act. No wonder the Commission on Audit said in its report on disaster preparedness, quoted in this column’s November 13 article “After Yolanda, disaster ranking worsens”:
“Even in the case of a national agency such as OCD, not much has been accomplished with regard to the projects under Disaster Preparedness, of which it is the lead agency. There were no reported accomplishments in the calendar year (CY) 2012 Performance Review and Assessment of the NDRRMP [National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan].”
COA added that after 2009, “there has been no Calamity Fund released to DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] responsible for disaster preparedness.”
A final must for DR4 is a much stronger international advocacy for funding from developed nations, the main culprits in global warming, for climate change adaptation, especially projects to safeguard communities in nations hard-hit by weather conditions spawned by rising temperatures. A 2013 report by the charity Oxfam lamented that rich nations fell short of their adaptation funding commitments.
In his next State of the Nation Address, President Aquino should explain how exactly his administration is implementing the NDRRM and PSF laws, and advocating increased climate change funding in global fora. And the government should list online and follow up P136 billion in agency projects said to be for climate change.
Rather than politicking and soundbites, let’s save lives.