The non-compliance of Comelec with RA 9369 in 2016 is highly probable as it happened twice already in 2010 and 2013. Worse, we didn’t see the election results in our respective precincts or we were not even given a chance to verify our votes. But somehow, fate has paved the way to give a chance for truth to come out.
Judge Celso O. Baguio of Gapan City Regional Trial Court-Branch 34 has declared that “per manual counting of the votes appearing in official ballots used in Clustered Precincts Nos. 19, 29 and 30 in Barangays Pias and Concepcion, General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, candidate Eduardo Villanueva (Bro. Eddie) garnered a total of 900 votes as against the Comelec count of only 781 votes.” This is just a factual manifestation that the STAR card failing grades of “1.2” and “0.29” in 2010 and 2013, respectively, given by AES Watch to Smartmatic are actually confirmed (Manila Times, July 22, 2014, http://www.manilatimes.net/error-in-application/113465/).
Surprisingly, it appears in the manual counting conducted in the said precincts that Bro. Eddie is the leading senatorial candidate followed only by Sen. Grace Poe. Woah! Could this be true also from Aparri to Jolo if we do the manual count of Bro. Eddie’s votes? But how come that he was consistently no. 19 in the Comelec count nationwide? The question now is—How valid is the 60-30-10 pattern observed by Professor Lex Muga, also from AES Watch, now that the real score is coming out?
It is very clear that our 1987 Constitution, in Article II Section 1, declares that “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” But how can we assert our sovereignty when our true will was not reflected in 2010 and 2013 elections just like what happened to our votes for Bro. Eddie?
Is there still hope of honesty and accuracy in 2016 elections? Yes! Nobody else, but only us, 53,786,223 Filipino voters, could make the change to put the defective system provided by Smartmatic to an end. Do you still remember what our former President Cory Aquino said before? “Sobra na, tama na, palitan na!” Those committees stipulated in RA 9369 have not changed too since 2008 except for the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee now headed by Sen. Koko Pimentel, who once served as counsel of Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) in a mandamus case filed with the Supreme Court in 2009 compelling Comelec to release the source code for independent review by citizens groups and political parties. CenPEG won but no source code review happened since then.
Now, how do we change to an improved transparent election structure? Simple! AES Watch is proposing that the appropriate Automated Election System technology for 2016 should basically follow the concept of Secret Voting – Public Counting (SVPC) system. It doesn’t matter whether the technology to be used is paper-based or a DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) election system as long as the tallied results in the precincts are verified correct by each precinct’s Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) based on the votes casts in the presence of the watchers.
With secret voting, I don’t see any problem as Comelec has been consistent with it except that . . . (just wanted to refresh my memory) . . . AES Watch got irked with that controversial ballot secrecy folder contract in 2010 (i.e., P 380/piece or P690 million to supply and deliver 1,815,000 folders). Thanks to former Comelec lawyer, Atty. Melchor Magdamo, for bringing this overpricing case to the Ombudsman and the guilty Comelec officials were suspended, even for six months ONLY!
With public counting everybody authorized to watch. Oh, yes, the PCOS machines counted and did it publicly but nobody see how and what they counted. Besides, the security safeguards required by the law were disabled (Manila Times, August 5, 2014, http://www.manilatimes.net/pcos-rule-machines/116849/). So there’s no transparency in the PCOS machines’ counting for the public counting was actually secret counting.
That’s why European countries that had used AES eventually reverted back to manual tallying and counting of votes. Even Germany’s Federal Supreme Court in 2009 ruled against the AES because the use of electronic voting machines is contrary to the democratic and public character that elections must have. Nobody sees how the machines are reading each ballot and then the machines report results that no one could verify.
AES Watch found Secret-Voting Public-Counting (SVPC) as the solution to stop this “Hocus-PCOS” syndrome. That means, the 2016 AES should be equipped with facility for public counting or viewing. Or better yet, combine AES technology with Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 Section 206, which was also amended under RA 9369, which stipulates that “As soon as the voting is finished, the board of election inspectors shall publicly count in the polling place the votes cast and ascertain the results.” This way, the voters would not have any apprehension that their votes are not counted.
How does SVPC work using existing PCOS machines, tablets as DREs, or other available technologies?
(To be continued next Tuesday)