It’s not right to make summary conclusions about the controversy that has arisen in the vice-presidential contest that has left Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo battling neck and neck in the unofficial vote count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
And it is bad manners to underestimate the true grit of a woman.
But the hard questions must be asked and answered because many groups, domestic as well as foreign, are totally incredulous about how Marcos could lose a 1-million vote lead over Robredo at midnight on Monday, and wind up with a quarter-of-a million- vote deficit by 5 a.m Tuesday.
Marcos is not alone in suspecting something sinister in the tabulation and reporting of election results. Others are raising questions about the integrity of the PPCRV, a problem which it has encountered in previous elections.
How did the PPCRV and its chair Henrietta De Villa attain their signal role in tabulating results in Monday’s balloting?
What is the PPCRV and who is Ms. De Villa, and what are their special competence or expertise for the aggregation and reporting of election results?
Is it statistically probable that transmitted results could dramatically change by the hour.
These questions are not answered by saying that what the PPCRV is doing or has done is only unofficial and partial, and nothing harmful.
But the fact is the PPCRV count, by being reported heavily in the media, has shaped the misleading perception that Robredo has already won the vice-presidential race, when she has not.
The misleading count cannot be ascribed to a typographical error or an honest mistake. There is method to the madness. And Bongbong is not alone in suspecting that something sinister and conspiratorial is going on.
Bongbong has a legitimate reason to denounce what is happening. And there is reason to doubt the work and links of the PPCRV.
Lost neutrality and incompetence
IN 2013, columnist Belinda Olivares-Cunanan reported on her blogsite “Political Tidbits” that a number of Catholic bishops withdrew their support from the PPCRV because of its poor track record in the 2010 elections and its perceived partiality toward the Commission on Elections (Comelec). In spite of this, the poll body reappointed the group to a sensitive role in the 2013 balloting, and again to this year’s elections.
In her article, Cunanan said the PPCRV lost its neutrality in the political exercise. She reported that several groups had objected to de Villa’s appointment as chair of the Random Manual Audit Committee (RMAC) of the Comelec, “despite her team having failed miserably to carry out that most crucial task in the May 2010 elections.”
Cunanan wrote: “In the 2010 elections PPCRV Chair De Villa was appointed to head the RMAC, with the NSO and a Comelec audit official as members. RMAC’s mandate was that within 15 hours after polls closed, it was to finish the manual audit of pre-selected precincts across the country. But what happened was that the RMAC was able to conduct only a 75% audit of selected precincts, and ONLY AFTER ONE MONTH.”
But now, De Villa and PPCRV are performing yet again a major role in national elections. And they have landed afresh in controversy in a big way. Two controversies in fact.
First, PPCRV created a row when it told the media that its volunteers spotted vote counting machines (VCMs) at the Novotel Hotel, at the Araneta Centerm in Cubao, Quezon City, which is owned by the family of LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas.
Smartmatic IT experts were billeted in the hotel.
PPCRV Chair Henrietta de Villa herself had briefed the media. She claimed that PPCRV volunteers saw VCMs in at least seven rooms on the 7th floor of the hotel.
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista rushed to the hotel to check, but he and his team could not find any VCM.
Rep. Barry Gutierrez, LP spokesman, demanded an apology from De Villa for stirring up the controversy.
The second controversy is the PPCRV’s erratic unofficial count of election results in the vice-presidential race, which Marcos has branded as part of a “sinister plot” called Plan B by the Liberal Party to steal the vice presidency from him and to eventually install Robredo as President.
Algorithmic rigging of the vote
Credence about an orchestrated attempt to thwart the will of the electorate has been reinforced by persuasive analysis by experts of the numbers in the mysterious reversal of Bongbong’s vote lead.
The highly informative and well-edited website Get Real Philippines.com posted on Tuesday a revealing article that validates the claim of the Marcos camp that the senator is the victim of a plot to propel Robredo to victory through the manipulation of data.
The information is contained in the article “1.37 million ‘registered voters’ discrepancy observed in Unofficial Results reporting operations!” by Benigno.
The author relates how several netizens took keen interest in the unusual way that Robredo chipped away at the initial 1-million vote lead of Marcos, and then succeeded in wresting the lead.
They noted the almost algorithmic way the process was accomplished. An algorithm is a logical arithmetical or computational procedure that if correctly applied ensures the solution of a problem. So when an expert describes a process as algorithmic, it is a sure sign of seriousness.
“Facebook netizen Benjamin Vallejo, Jr. plotted the progressive decrease of Marcos’s lead over Robredo over time and found an almost perfect linear correlation and posted it on his Facebook profile. The correlation plotted a straight path downward trajectory for Marcos’s lead. “Di kapanipaniwala!” observed Vallejo, noting the perfectly straight line.
“Statistician and Ateneo de Manila faculty member David Yap also closely monitored the movement of Marcos’s lead over Robredo and arrived at the same conclusion independently. Like Vallejo, he also posted the results of his analysis on his Facebook profile…
Yap said: “Starting from the 80% (of returns) mark, BBM’s lead has been dwindling by 40k per 1%. The progression is so consistent.”
Benigno concluded his piece, saying:
“What is going on?
“This is a question being asked by many observers who, among other things, are questioning how Robredo could have possibly attracted these numbers considering the poor way with which most voters regard the Liberal Party and the character of the constituencies she supposedly won.”
Plan B in full swing—Bongbong
In a media interview on Tuesday, Bongbong declared: “Plan B is in full swing.” His warning of an LP plot to cheat him of victory is already being carried out.
He said that the plot involves the suppression and delay of his votes from his bailiwicks, while those of Robrebdo’s are being pushed up front.
He said that many of the results from his bailiwicks in the Solid North have not been reflected in the partial and unofficial quick count of the PPCRV.
This was the reason why his 1 million vote-lead started to go down before 12 a.m. Tuesday until he was supposedly overtaken by Robredo.
But the senator remained confident of winning the VP race when all votes are reported.
Marcos said that with President Aquino himself declaring that he will stop his bid for the vice presidency, nothing will be spared to achieve this objective.
Full official canvass is the key
The final leg of the Marcos strategy is to trust all in the full official canvass of the vote.
Rep. Jonathan Dela Cruz, campaign adviser of Sen. Marcos, claims certitude that Marcos would win in the official canvass despite the slim lead posted in the unofficial count by Leni Robredo.
He noted that the exit polls of the Social Weather Stations and other transparency groups have confirmed their own internal polling that showed Marcos getting 34.9 percent of the votes compared with Robredo’s 32.2 percent.
“Once the official canvass starts, we will emerge victorious. That is the reason why we requested the Comelec to put an end to this unofficial count,” he said.
Dela Cruz explained that the request is meant to prevent a situation where the unofficial count and the official canvass of the National Board of Canvassers would differ and create confusion and doubts about the election results.
He said they also requested the poll body to identify the areas where the votes reflected in the transparency servers were coming from to prevent the possibility of double entries.
Dela Cruz disclosed that the decrease in the lead of Sen. Marcos began after what Comelec said was a glitch that delayed the updates of the transmitted votes in the transparency server.
Finally, Dela Cruz stressed that there were still many votes that have yet to be transmitted from various areas, including those that are known bailiwicks of Sen. Marcos such as Ilocos Sur, with 11 percent; La Union, 11 percent; Nueva Vizcaya, 12 percent; Apayao, 18 percent; Abra, 11 percent; Lanao del Norte, 12 percent; Zamboanga del Sur, 9 percent; and Sultan Kudarat, 22 percent—all as of 9:30 this morning.
So there is a lot more votes to count.
And PPCRV and Henrietta, thankfully, have no role to play in the official canvass of the votes.