THE present Commission on Elections does not seem eager to undo the destruction of our Republic’s democratic electoral process by the malfeasances of retired chairman Sixto Brillantes et al. They cast in concrete the control of our elections by Smartmatic, using its Automated Election System (AES) and the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines with their security and fraud-prevention accessories illegally disabled.
The Comelec under Brillantes employed the Smartmatic AES/PCOS machines knowing fully well that the operators of the system and the system itself, as set up by Smartmatic technicians, would willfully and unlawfully disregard vital provisions of Republic Act No. 9369, our country’s Automated Election Law.
Upright, politically neutral experts in IT and election processes, persons respected in academe and in the information and communication industries, took pains to point out the serious defects of the Smartmatic AES, the PCOS machines, and the Venezuelan marketing company’s being legally disqualified from supplying the AES and PCOS machines it was selling to us Filipinos.
Brillantes, however, dismissed as unfounded and untrue the assertions of the respected NGO AES Watch, the Computer Society of the Philippines, the NGO Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections and many others. Brillantes maligned these persons and institutions as mere troublemakers and persons seeking to profit from dislodging Smartmatic from its entrenched position of control over Philippine elections.
The purpose of using an automated election system is to perfect our election process, make it more transparent and therefore more credible, yield CORRECT and ACCURATE results FAST. An AES therefore should help in the political stability of our Republic. That has not been done by the Smartmatic AES and PCOS machines.
Only a handful of election protests contesting the numerical errors of the 2010 and 2013 elections have progressed. And this is because the Smartmatic AES/PCOS machines do not give a protestor complaining against the blatantly inflated total of voters a way of proving that the PCOS machine miscounted the votes and added the numbers incorrectly.
Violating the requirements of the law, the precinct count coughed out by the PCOS machines is not signed and certified to be correct by any human member of the precinct-level Board of Election Inspectors. But no witness can ever certify to the correctness of the PCOS machine’s count because no one sees what filled ovals on the ballots in its belly are seen and counted by the PCOS machine.
Brillantes: Glitches and deficiencies can adversely affect results
On September 18, 2014 at the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) tasked with monitoring the Comelec’s work, then chairman Brillantes admitted to the committee that the PCOS machine “is not perfect… There are certain glitches (and) deficiencies… that can adversely affect the results.”
Brillantes made this admission in answer to questions by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who asked: “Can it happen all over the Philippines…that a person votes for only four candidates but the machines count votes for 12?” Brillantes replied: “That’s right.” Cayetano asked: “Did it happen, Mr. Chair, only in 2013 or pati 2010?” Brillantes replied: “We saw it in 2013, we haven’t yet checked 2010.”
So, Cayetano said: “Then how can we decide on having a manual or automated (election) in 2016 if we can’t assure our people that walang dagdag-bawas (there will be no manipulation of the count)?”
Brillantes replied: “The machine is not perfect… There are certain glitches (and) deficiencies… that can adversely affect the results.”
Why then did Brillantes and his allies in the Comelec insist on continuing the use of the Smartmatic AES/PCOS machine in the 2016 elections?
Why does the present Comelec still have Smartmatic among its suppliers?
The awarding of the negotiated, no bidding, contract to Smartmatic for it to refurbish and repair the 82,000 PCOS machines our Republic had bought for billions from the Venezuelans has been temporarily restrained by the Supreme Court. Brillantes et al. awarded the contract to Smartmatic only days before he retired. Most right-thinking observers justly suspected it to be a “midnight deal.” The High Court is expected to make the temporary restraining order (TRO) permanent.
With Brillantes out of the Comelec, it looked that it would thenceforth do what is right, moral and good for our democracy–and ban Smartmatic forever from our electoral process. That decision was actually made by the Comelec Awards and Bidding Committee. But the Comelec in an en banc meeting rejected its own expert committee’s decision.
The post-Brillantes Comelec has been sending mixed signals. At first it said it would go back to manual elections, which is the most transparent, credible and correct way. The PCOS saving of 3 to 4 hours from the time devoted for manually counting the individual paper ballots does not warrant the loss of transparency, credibility and general acceptance of the results.
But now the Comelec seems to be changing its mind.
It would be good if Comelec decides to use the inexpensive and more reliable system proposed by former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman, the TCrES system. But maybe the Smartmatic AES will still prevail.
In the current alarming state of uncertainty, we call on patriotic Filipinos to form a People Power movement to OCCUPY COMELEC.
Join this movement if you care about having our votes counted properly and the correct totals transmitted accurately to the canvassing and consolidation centers.
OCCUPY COMELEC is the only way to make sure the voice of the people is heard–and obeyed.