End election impunity, defend people’s right of suffrage!
After two automated elections — 2010 and 2013 – and after conscientious efforts by citizens’ poll watchdogs and other election stakeholders since 2008 to ensure transparency, accuracy, and credibility in using the so-called “modern election technology,” we now raise the following concerns:
First, a collusion continues to reign based on money and political expediency among power players to allow a foreign company – Smartmatic-TIM – to monopolize the supply of election technology and hardware, worse, to control the country’s sovereign electoral process despite this company’s questionable credentials and without any credible system of audit and accountability as deterrent to the manipulation of poll results; and,
Second, all these meaningful efforts by concerned citizens groups coursed through all possible legal means in the past continue to fall on deaf ears. Various state authorities – including the Comelec, Malacañang, Congress through its suffrage committees and JCOC, and procurement bodies – have simply failed to discharge their constitutionally-mandated functions in ensuring that elections are transparent and secured, voting is verifiable, votes are duly authenticated and electronically-transmitted without glitch, counting is accurate, and election results are credible. They all remain hostage to the power of political expedience and opportunism not to scientific studies and compliance to laws they themselves framed and claim to abide with.
Promises of electoral reforms and those on FOI [Freedom of Information], political dynasties and job security are entirely forgotten when money and patronage politics come into play. Especially in election season, patronage politics and money make even court rulings toothless as in the recycling of pork barrel in veiled forms.
On record, CenPEG, the Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch), and other election monitoring organizations have raised the following key issues – which have either elicited no satisfactory answers or were simply ignored – to bring about compliance measures, among these:
1) OWNERSHIP: Why is Smartmatic-TIM consistently the most favored “bidder” despite incontrovertible evidence showing its questionable ownership of the technology software and despite recent reports confirming that the company is 100% foreign-owned, clearly a breach of Philippine law?
2) MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Why does Comelec keep on certifying as reliable the foreign-supplied PCOS/OMR system to be used in the automated elections despite its gross non-compliance with the minimum system requirements according to RA 9369 and related Acts? Among these minimum requirements are source code review; votes cast should be verifiable as correct by the voter; secured authentication of election results by digital signature based on the E-Commerce Act before transmission; and credible random manual audit.
3) VERIFIED REPORTS OF ELECTRONIC FRAUD: Why no credible investigation by Comelec and Congress has been done since 2010 regarding several cases of system flaws, election fraud and manipulation? These range from the field testing fiasco one week before the May 2010 which led to the recall and subsequent irresponsible burning of all compact flash cards (CFCs) – to hide evidence perhaps? – the supposed replacements of which were not even duly certified by Comelec for use; tampering of the election server system by Smartmatic technicians at the start of counting; bloated figures of voters amid canvassing; cases showing glaring discrepancies between ballots and electronic ERs; distorted digital lines of ballot images which, according to DOST itself, affected the election results in 2013; premature and deliberate declaration of winners merely by voter extrapolation; voting patterns showing possible program tampering (e.g.,”60-30-10” in 2013); and the non-electronic transmission of millions of votes in 2010 and 2013, with 20%-30% of the votes cast in 2013 remaining unaccounted for.
Unless these breaches of law, system deficiencies, and other flaws are immediately rectified we will once more witness automation failures in May 2016 as a result of which results will be deemed unreliable and incredible.
More taxpayers’ money for favored Smartmatic and election Mafias
It is an open secret that election mafias – as reported in the media — continue to control the whole election management process in the country. Where else can we see bidding rules and decisions quickly overturned at the mere whimper of a favored vendor? Immediate action and corrective measures cannot be expected in an election procedure where the authorities mandated to ensure fair and accurate elections have shown neither scientific competence – as poll modernization requires – nor legal compliance to protect the citizens’ right to vote. Our elections are forever doomed when the impunity of breaching the law reigns, when greed and corruption rule in the choice of technology, and when machines decide the vote regardless of system vulnerabilities that allow manipulation.
Despite their powers, both Congress and Comelec have failed to allow accountability to fall on those who violate the law. Unless accountability is enforced the bigger is the indicator that our election system has been hijacked by foreign monopoly which is a constitutional issue.
In the last few months, AES Watch through the Filipino IT for Election (FIT4E) movement has encouraged the use of Filipino scientific ingenuity to design our own election technology. By the public and media demonstration of Filipino alternative technology solutions we have proven that the Filipino can do it and that systems can be designed compliant with RA 9369 or the election automation law particularly the minimum system requirements such as transparency, among other system features.
Condemnable, however, is the bias shown by election decision makers in choosing foreign technology that costs billions of taxpayer’s money over Filipino systems that are cheaper by several notches! And this is not only because of the anti-Filipino and anti-Filipino inventor culture of Philippine authorities that values anything foreign as good investment while anything local as unreliable – to cite some Comelec officials and Smartmatic, itself an unlawful act of internal meddling.
We shall continue to promote Filipino ingenuity and inventiveness but we pose a challenge to:
1) The Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on AES to comply with its mandate to conduct a full assessment of the automated election system which it failed to do on two counts – in 2010 and 2013;
2) The Commission on Audit (COA) to publicly issue reports on the auditing of Comelec expenditures as a body and in its management of automated elections from 2010 to the present;
3) The Supreme Court and the Office of the Ombudsman to urgently act on all complaints filed since 2010 against Comelec-Smartmatic’s continued intransigence and disregard of the law;
4) To allow the pilot testing of Filipino-designed alternative technologies during the 2016 elections
Impunity and the unholy alliance of Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM should end! Bring back the public nature of elections and put machines where they should belong, not as THE main players but as mere tools to facilitate an election process. There can never be transparency with machines that count the votes inside the box and invisible to the eyes of the public. There can never be accountability when the results simply pop out of the screen without being verified publicly.
With all certainty, backed by countless studies and lessons here and in many countries, we say the PCOS supplied by the sham supplier, 100% foreign-owned Smartmatic-TIM will never count the votes right in the 2016 elections. It is high time we say no to non-compliance which breeds conditions for criminal acts of fraud to continue and uphold democratic election instead of profits.
TEMARIO C. RIVERA, PhD
Board Chair, CenPEG
EVITA L. JIMENEZ
Executive Director, CenPEG
PABLO R. MANALASTAS, PhD
CenPEG Fellow for IT
FELIX MUGA II, PhD
CenPEG Board Member
[On Sept. 10, 2015, the above public statement was read by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance at the CenPEG Roundtable with the Media. The points raised are urgent and currently valid.]