STICKING to former Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes’ policy to demonize manual counting of votes (written by voters on their ballots), the present Comelec chair and most of the commissioners also reject returning to the old way votes were handled in each precinct.
Remember how it went? At the end of the voting day–with the representatives of the competing political parties, of the authorized citizens’ groups (like Namfrel) or the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the press and the police or any deputized law-enforcement agency watching–the precinct’s Board of Election Inspectors (the teachers who conducted the voting process in the precinct during the voting hours) opened the ballot box and then read the votes shown in every valid ballot.
Each vote was marked with the “taras” on the paper election return and also on the blackboard or whiteboard which everyone could see. The total count was publicly announced and could be seen on the whiteboard (or blackboard).
This is the transparent and foolproof system. The teachers making up the Board of Election Inspectors signed the precinct’s election result that was transmitted to the canvassing and consolidation centers. The rival parties and the authorized election watchdog also got a copy of this signed certificate–and witnesses saw it.
All in all the worst in terms of length of time this process took–from the time voters lined up to vote, then filled their ballots in secret, deposited their filled ballots into the ballot box, and the BEI teachers did the manual “taras” counting, accomplished and signed the certificates–was from morning to midnight.
Now, how about the Smartmatic Automated Election System using the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines?
Voters still line up for three or four hours before they could get their ballots. They took the same times as before to shade their ballots’ ovals. Then they feed the ballots into the PCOS.
The speed in the Smartmatic AES-PCOS system is in the counting. This is done in the bowels of the PCOS machine. No one sees whether the machine counts the shaded ovals correctly or not. Then the machine creates the results. No one can witness how the machine added the votes. Lines on the ballots caused by bad inking or defective paper appear inside the machine and cause votes to be added or entire ballots to be invalidated.
The precinct total count result created inside the machine does not have the BEI’s signature. They, the teachers, would not be able to say anyway that the count is correct or not. These results are sent out to the canvassing and consolidation centers by the PCOS machine–according to the coded instruction it has in its software card. This can, however, be tampered with by IT experts who know the codes, thanks to being Smartmatic contractual or permanent employees.
None of the safeguards demanded by the Automated Election Law is complied with!
There is no transparency in the precinct-level assessment of ballots and in the counting of votes as shown in the shaded ovals. Election protests can hardly advance because there is no paper trail.
This is the reason more than a dozen countries–including sophisticated and high-tech Germany have dropped their Smartmatic-like automated systems and reverted to manual precinct level counting. As has Australia and some 20 or so countries. Britain, for all its being one of the world’s most highly developed industrial, technological and IT countries, has never used automated election systems. Precinct level ballot assessment and counting is manual there–because that is the only way the legal and emotional demands requirement of transparency can be satisfied.
Former Comelec Chair Brillantes succeeded in making most of our powerholders believe that it is wrong to go back to manual counting in the precincts.
It is clear that PCOS machines have hardly reduced the time for final election results to be known. For the three or four hours saved at the precinct by the PCOS machines unwitnessed, untransparent counting of votes, disappear at the canvassing and consolidation centers. For it is in these centers where dagdag-bawas (adding-shaving of numbers) happens.
Brillantes’ unethical, suspect–even corrupt– stand is backed by President Aquino and his allies.
Because with the Smartmatic AES and the PCOS machines, the Aquino Gang will be able to control the election results FOREVER!
The best system –as explained by experts–is manual counting witnessed by all in the precincts. Then the precinct results–certified as true and correct by the BEI teachers, and recorded publicly–are to be immediately sent electronically to the canvassing and consolidation centers.