Manila Standard – Compromise or compromised?

By Emil Jurado | Manila Standard

“What is the real reason behind Namfrel’s move?”

The Commission on Elections has recently been under fire amide news that the National Movement for Free Elections will no longer serve as the citizens’ arm for next week’s midterm elections.

According to reports, Namfrel declined its accreditation because the Comelec did not allow it to gain access to sensitive information.

Namfrel expressed its thanks for the accreditation, but said “without open access to information and data, petitioner Namfrel is unable to participate in the random manual audit because its inaccessibility diminishes the verifiability separately provided during the RMA.”

My gulay, Namfrel has been the Comelec’s citizen arm since the 1980s! It has been an election tradition to have Namfrel verify election results.

At first impression, it sounds like the Comelec is doing some sort of obfuscation, but we all have to remember that in previous elections, Namfrel was given access to sensitive data. The RMAs done with the guidance of the Philippine Statistics Authority all turned out fine.

So this begs the question. Why does Namfrel need access to sensitive data? Is there no compromise that can be reached, especially since it is the duty of the Comelec to protect the data of the electorate?

Namfrel’s act of declining the accreditation shows that it wants all or nothing. They are definitely not open to compromise. Then again, Namfrel National Chairman Gus Lagman may have a few ideas of his own.

Now that the Comelec fully owns the Automated Election System, having restricted Smartmatic to a very limited role, Namfrel’s vigilance is needed more than ever.

This will be the first time that the Comelec will run the whole automated election practically by itself. Not having a citizen arm will put the Comelec in a position that would make it hard to defend the legitimacy of the AES.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, such a scenario would benefit Namfrel. The chairman of Namfrel has established for himself the reputation of being a crusader against electoral fraud. Noble, indeed.

We have to remember, however, that Lagman has been peddling around the Precinct Automated Tallying System which was tested, and which spectacularly failed on June 27, 2015.

PATaS is a hybrid election system—manual counting and automated transmission. It was proposed to the Comelec as an alternative to Smartmatic’s system. It was rejected because it was much slower and more prone to human error and intervention. It was also more expensive to maintain than what the Comelec was using back then.

Intuitively, I agree with the Comelec. Why would we go back to manual when we are already finally at a point where the process is fully automated and fast? Santa Banana, that is the opposite of progress!

That does not mean I am not open to changing the technology provider. But if it’s a step in the wrong direction, it is better to stick to what we have for now while looking somewhere else.

So as much as I would like to think that Namfrel’s intentions in declining are for the good of the people, its link with PATaS casts a shadow of doubt.

Given the ties of some people to a system that has been rejected by the Comelec, it would seem convenient for some people to make up excuses to not support the Comelec and set it up for perceived failure.

Again, I am not a conspiracy theorist. But perhaps the intention would be clearer if the bearer of the message is not as compromised.

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