I am writing this article on Election Day. By the time this comes out in this newspaper, we may already be looking at some trends, even if we may not yet know who the election winners are, especially for the national contests. I can only hope that those who will do our country good will eventually win. But whatever it is, we further hope that the results would be truly reflective of the people’s will.
Let me talk a bit about whether the automated elections on Election Day, May 9, were credible or not. Over the years, I have often been asked that very question, “Do I think the Smartmatic system counted our votes correctly?”
Rather than giving an opinion, I thought that I should just enumerate some relevant facts surrounding this issue and then let the readers judge as to whether they think our votes were counted correctly or not. What are these facts?
2010 presidential and senatorial elections
Since 2009 Smartmatic has conducted several mock elections, mostly before COMELEC officials and a few times before Congress. Not one of these produced results that fell within the required accuracy level. Once, this vendor even invented their own measure of accuracy, which those in the know, found really laughable. The formula they used is recorded in the report that they submitted to Congress.
Exactly one week before the 2010 elections, Smartmatic supposedly recalled the Compact Flash (CF) cards in all the 76,000 PCOS machines already deployed nationwide, corrected their contents, then re-installed them back into their original machines. All in one week! It is difficult to believe that they were able to execute this rectification flawlessly. The logistics involved is simply daunting. How the vendor was able to even come up with results raised quite a few eyebrows. The suspicion was that the final figures were set to just follow the survey results.
9% of the PCOS machines failed to transmit the precinct results to the City/Municipal Board of Canvassers (C/MBOC).
2013 senatorial elections
Two hours after the close of voting and start of national canvassing during the 2013 elections, the total votes garnered by one of the candidates already exceeded ten million votes. A Smartmatic technical person had to step in to rectify the “run-away” figures. Whether he posted the correct counts is something we do not know about.
The COMELEC proclaimed six senators after only 24% of the votes had been canvassed. Once again, it seemed to the public that the Commission used as a basis the results of the surveys, rather than those of the official canvassing. Clearly, that decision did not follow the standard and acceptable protocol. In fact, perhaps realizing their mistake, they had to re-proclaim them days later.
On the same elections, almost all the candidates’ rankings did not change from the first report up to the 16th report. The probability of this occurring is very small.
23% of the PCOS machines failed to transmit the precinct results to the C/MBOC.
The Dinalupihan, Bataan C/MBOC allegedly received transmitted results from precincts that, upon checking, claimed that they had not sent their results yet as they had not even closed the voting. So, who sent those results? If this can happen in one municipality, surely it can happen in many more.
Votes of the senators would go up and down without any explanation. For instance, Senator Poe’s votes went up to 20 million, with less than half of the Certificates of Canvass (COCs) canvassed; upon completion of the COCs, her votes only went up by some 189,000 votes. And then, days later, her total was brought down to 16 million. What happened? No plausible explanation was ever made to the public.
During a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing in September, 2014, former Comelec Chairman Brillantes admitted to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano that the PCOS machines can interpret the votes incorrectly and, in fact, that such happened during the 2013 elections. Why the COMELEC continues to deal with Smartmatic despite this, is indeed very puzzling.
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In both elections, nobody saw how the votes were counted in the precincts. Worse, the voters did not see how the votes were consolidated at the municipal and provincial canvassing Boards. The voters were not given a chance to verify the counting and canvassing procedures. They were simply expected to accept all the figures.
So, if these were so, how then can we trust the accuracy of the results in both the 2010 and 2013 elections? Since Comelec used the same system in this year’s elections, neither can we trust the results that will come out.
The only good news is that on Election Day, the Comelec announced in a newspaper daily that they will post all Election Returns (ERs) in a website that’s accessible to all, as they have promised. It is not exactly how it should have been implemented, but it will do for the meantime.
Let us at least learn a lesson from past experiences. NEVER AGAIN should we use these PCOS machines nor deal with this service provider.