A former official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday claimed that the poll body attempted to cover up widespread electronic manipulation of vote results in the 2013 mid-term elections.
Lawyer Melchor Magdamo, executive assistant to then-Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, said the electronic “dagdag-bawas” (vote padding and shaving) was discovered during a random manual audit conducted by experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
He added that Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and evangelist Eddie Villanueva were among the “victims” of the “electronic dagdag-bawas” in the 2013 senatorial polls, where Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines acquired from Smartmatic were used.
Pimentel was among the 12 winners proclaimed, having landed in eighth place. Villanueva secured the 19th spot.
The senatorial race last year was topped by Grace Poe, who got 20,337,327 votes.
“They [Comelec] tried to cover up the results,” Magdamo said.
He noted that Pimentel and Villanueva no longer filed a protest because of late discovery of the anomaly.
The former poll official said current Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes Jr. questioned the authority of DOST officials when the technical report on the manual audit was presented to the Senate in December 2013 fover reports of discrepancies in the PCOS and manual count of votes.
Magdamo added that the results of the senatorial elections may have been pre-programmed in the PCOS machines as indicated in the report of the Technical Evaluation Committee composed of IT experts from DOST.
The evaluation found lines in the digital images of the counted ballots produced by almost all counting machines that compromised the vote count for senators, he said.
“It was discovered to be widespread in ballots all over the country, there are mysterious digital lines that affected the vote count,” the co-convenor of election watchdog group Citizens for Clean and Credible Election (C3E), said.
C3E is among the groups pressing for the disqualification of Smartmatic from participating in the bidding for 23,000 additional voting machines to be used in 2016.
The Comelec has started the bidding process for the P2-billion supply contract and the refurbishment of the existing 83,000 PCOS machines.
Magdamo said the presence of digital lines had the effect of an “electronic dagdag bawas” in that they added or subtracted votes for a particular candidate.
Blank ovals were counted as votes for particular candidates once the vertical lines on the electronic image of the ballot were detected.
Magdamo said in n investigation by the Joint Congressional Committee to determine the cause of the digital lines, it was found out that Pimentel would have ranked higher were it not for the vertical lines that substantially shaved his votes.
The former poll official sat as observer in the joint congressional probe.
He said the digital lines were clearly one source of the fraudulent election results.
“Definitely. [This was confirmed by DOST in a report, a government report, that leaked out],” Magdamo added.
He was referring to the December 10, 2013 report prepared by a six-man support work group of DOST’s technical evaluation committee headed by Dennis Villorente.
The report was later submitted to the Senate.
But Comelec Senior Commissioner Lucenito Tagle denied Magdamo’s allegations, saying the poll body has not received any complaint from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) or DOST.
“[That is not true. Those critics are repeating those allegations. We have fixed that, there is no electronic padding and shaving of votes. How can that happen]?” Tagle said in a phone interview also on Wednesday.
He added thatMagdamo’s group is making noise because it is pushing a new election system for the 2016 polls.
“Maybe they want us to adopt an election system that they are proposing,” Tagle said.
Instead of resurrecting such accusations, the poll official advised Magdamo’s group to help the Comelec ensure clean and honest elections in 2016.