THE evasive way in which growing questions over the integrity of the close-fought race for the vice presidency are being handled by both the Commission on Elections and its technology provider Smartmatic is only deepening suspicions that the results have been tampered with. If Comelec has any hope whatsoever of convincing anyone that the official results, when they are finally produced, are at all accurate, it must act decisively, now, to restore the credibility of the process and its outcome.
Over the past few months, large-scale attacks on the supposedly secure systems of important institutions have become almost an epidemic; our country is already wrestling with the fallout of one of those, the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist. And, of course, it was only very recently that the Comelec’s voters information database was stolen by hackers.
In the case of that data breach, it was difficult to decide what was more alarming—the fact that hackers were able to easily obtain sensitive personal information for millions of voters, or the dismissive way with which Comelec responded to the matter. While Comelec has spoken out a bit more forcefully on the controversial and completely improper action of inserting new script in the system by Smartmatic, it has only been to deflect any blame for the irregularity to the latter, but while essentially backing Smartmatic’s argument that the action was harmless.
Comelec needs to take a step back and remind itself of what its mandate from the people is with respect to this election: that the votes are collected, tabulated, and the results produced quickly, accurately, and in a manner clearly obvious to anyone observing that is fair and transparent, so that the outcome is beyond question.
There is nothing but questions about the outcome of the vice-presidential election so far, and none of these are even being remotely answered. They may be, in the course of impending Senate hearings and other investigations of the Smartmatic script-insertion issue, but the results of those inquiries may come too late to undo the damage. The specter of a vice president being removed from office due to irregularities in the vote counting would be a historical first; obviously, it is one we hope the country never sees. And there is no reason it should.
It seems that nothing short of a manual recount of the ballots can adequately dispel the doubt about who our next vice president will be. Comelec will try to avoid this, of course, as it would completely invalidate the notion of the superiority of automated elections, but we strongly urge them to consider it. No elected official at any level, and especially not in one of the highest offices in the land, can perform at his or her best if questions of legitimacy are not resolved. And if the body in charge of the country’s elections is not willing to resolve the questions swirling around one office, it casts doubt on the credibility of them all.
By contrast, taking decisive action now to call for a recount, even if that seems something more than necessary to put an end to the confusion, sends the message that Comelec is committed to carrying out its mandate to ensure that the people’s will has been properly expressed. As we see it, the poll body is in no position to refuse, but if it has another solution to offer, we would certainly like to hear it.