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Manila Standard - The PET vote count

News & Interviews
3 April 2018

By Emil Jurado | Manila Standard

The big question that came up last Monday after it was announced that the Presidential Electoral Tribunal would start the recount of votes for the vice presidential race is obvious—who really won between Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos?

We all know that during elections, there are only two kinds of candidates—those who won, those who were cheated. We are also familiar with decisions that come out close to the next elections.

What is truly significant about the PET decision is that it was handed down nearly two years after the election. I actually think this is early!

We will witness history unfold. This is the first time that the Supreme Court, meeting as the PET, has ordered a recount.

Mere hours after the close of the 2016 polls, Marcos and his team already raised alleged discrepancies and trends in the way his votes were being counted. This led them to investigate further and gather the data so they could protest to the PET.

I remember going to sleep on election night and waking up surprised that Marcos had lost his early, and what I thought to be decisive, lead. When reports came out that some Smartmatic executives were monkeying round with the ballots, I concluded that the results were indeed being manipulated.

How could it happen that on election night Marcos was leading but lot his advantage by morning?

My conclusion was validated by the final results of the elections. Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas suddenly emerged second, even ahead of Grace Poe who poll surveys said was leading Roxas and closely following Rodrigo Duterte. My gulay, even Vice President Jejomar Binay was relegated to fourth place!

Am I biased against Roxas and the Liberal Party? Yes I am.

Later on, a source told me that the party also wanted to cheat for Mar, but Duterte’s margin was just too big to overcome. Unfortunately, Hollywood provides us a steady stream of unrealistic plots involving computer hackers.

Were the precinct count optical scan machines really used to frustrate the will of the people?

Quite frankly, this is a ridiculous idea. While automated elections are not the be-all and end-all solution, it is the key component to minimize if not altogether eliminate electoral fraud. It main purpose is to make everything go faster, and as we know, speed is the number-one enemy of cheaters. My nephew says “fraud hates fast.”

Say what you will about the last elections, but there is no denying the exceptional speed by which the votes were counted and transmitted.

On election day itself, Poe and then Roxas conceded. An exception, really, since elections here are notorious for cheating allegations.

This brings me to my second point. While cheating starts when there is slowness in a process, it is substantiated when it goes undetected. This is yet another important element that the PCOS machines and the VCMs have brought to the table.

In the event someone does anything funny, the built-in check and balances of an automated system will certainly uncover it. For example, at 7:30 on election day, something as inconspicuous as changing a “?” to and “N” was immediately flagged, alerting the public.

The Marcos camp already noticed alarming trends just hours after the voting. This would not have been possible if technological systems set in place were not doing their job.

“Don’t blame the messenger” is a common phrase that may be altered a bit in this context. While I am not conclusively saying that cheating happened, we should not blame the channel for the cheating even if it did. The truth is the system did its job and did it well. If automated elections were not in place during the 2016 polls, it may have taken months or years for the anomalies to be detected.