TO PARAPHRASE US Presidential presumptive nominee Donald Trump, “What the heck is going on?”
Why the surreptitious meeting between Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista in a Makati condominium just hours after the Supreme Court had asked the camp of the Vice President to reply to charges of poll fraud by vice presidential candidate and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.?
The face-to-face between Robredo and Bautista on the evening of July 12 in the condominium owned by the Comelec chairman’s in-laws has exploded in social media and raised suspicions of a whitewash.
The clandestine encounter was caught on video with the Vice President entering and subsequently leaving the condominium at 10:26 p.m. ahead of the Comelec chairman at 10:30 p.m., a four-minute interval.
As seen in the video, Robredo and Bautista met at the apartment owned by the latter’s in-law, Ma. Pacita “Baby” Gaboro Cruz, in Urdaneta Apartments, a plush condominium in Ayala, Makati City.
It was not clear, however, who initiated the meeting and how long it lasted.
Both Robredo and Bautista denied ever meeting secretly and said they were merely invited to a party in Makati where some 30 to 40 guests were in attendance.
Robredo labeled the video on the Facebook page “Dayaang Matuwid” showing the two of them arriving and leaving separately as “malicious.”
She admitted though that Bautista was also present during the dinner but that they only exchanged pleasantries.
“We didn’t talk politics … Nakipag hi-hello lang ako kay VP [Vice President],” Bautista stressed when interviewed over dzBB.
Also present during the dinner on Tuesday were Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, she said.
Robredo and Bautista, however, were seen entering one of the rooms together and met privately for some 30 minutes before coming out, a source told The Manila Times.
Midnight change in trend
Despite pervasive complaints of poll cheating and calls for a vote recount and an IT systems audit, Bautista stood his ground that the recently concluded presidential elections were clean and honest and that no cheating occurred.
Around midnight and at the height of the electronic transmission of votes following the close of the voting precincts on May 9, candidate Marcos was leading comfortably.
His lead of close to a million votes suddenly began to ebb precipitously while Robredo’s count rose steadily.
This trend happened immediately following a Smartmatic technician’s admitted intervention in the automated election process at the heat of the transmission to correct what he claims to be an error where the letter ñ (“enye”) in some names comes out as a question mark (?).
Robredo finally edged out Marcos in the final Comelec and PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) tally results with a 263,000-vote plurality, which is now the subject of a poll protest from Bongbong Marcos before both the Supreme Court and the Comelec.
Poll and IT experts and research authorities, however, were left bewildered and befuddled at the turn of events. They say the sharp drop of Marcos and the steady rise of Robredo were too linear to be credible.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon came out to publicly denounce the highly questionable intervention of the Smartmatic technician and said the “[s]ystem is owned by the Philippines and nobody is authorized to tinker with it without the consent, much less approval, of the Comelec.”
Bautista defended the illegal intervention, saying what the technician did was nothing more than aesthetics and did not affect or alter in any way the results of the canvassing of the votes more particularly for the vice presidential candidates.
Protests against the Comelec, Smartmatic and Leni Robredo were filed before the Comelec and the Supreme Court by Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz of the Abakada party-list and vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos for various electoral offenses and violations of the Cybercrime Law.
Last Tuesday, just hours before the controversial meeting of Robredo and Bautista in Makati, the Supreme Court directed the Vice President to answer the election protest filed by Marcos.
At the same time, Venezuelan technician Marlon Garcia hastily left the country despite the assurance of Smartmatic that they welcome the cases filed against them and that it will make its personnel available to answer all charges of poll fraud.
Numerous poll violations by Comelec and Smartmatic were noted by IT experts, members of the academe and highly respected lawyers.
Chief among them were the non-compliance with legally required safeguards and the irregular implementation of the Automated Election System (AES) that lent itself to massive vote cheating, tinkering of the electoral system when a Smartmatic technician changed the script at the height of the canvassing of votes and, worse, the use of an unauthorized fourth server.
The existence of the shadow fourth server was never disclosed to the opposition parties, much less to the public.
It was not source-coded, according to de la Cruz, which means that it was not reviewed for accuracy by the political parties.
“Up to now, nobody could tell where the shadow fourth server was located. If we are to believe our inside informant, it was located at the Network Operating Center (NOC) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, and was run and operated by both Comelec and Smartmatic personnel,” he said.