The Manila Times – 2019 elections: ‘Laway’ of Venezuelans or ‘talino’ of Filipinos? (Part 7)

By Nelson Celis | The Manila Times

Part 7

ONE of the most disreputable events that happened after the 2013 national and local elections was the initial report presented by the head of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), during the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People Participation (CERPP) onDecember10, 2013.Engineer Denis Villorente reported that out of the 234 PCOS machines that underwent random manual audit (RMA) by the RMA Committee, 11 were found to have discrepancies greater than 9 between the PCOS count and manual count that were referred to them for root cause analysis. Lo and behold, out of 11 machines, 7 were found to have digital lines over the ovals of the decrypted ballot images that virtually added votes to those candidates affected and the 4 were reported to have no effect. What could have caused these digital lines? As quoted in the transcript:

“Villorente:…we found…a foreign material in the Mylar film on the PCOS scanner…we speculate that the foreign material came from the ballots that were scanned and got stuck in the Mylar…the large variance as…seen in the seven is…generated because of foreign material stuck inside the PCOS machine…

Chairman (Sen. Koko Pimentel): What alarms me is you examined only 11 and found seven. Actually, you found all machines generating lines but in your opinion, the four did not affect the results…

Villorente: Let me cite some numbers. Yung Bacoor, Cavite, total number of registered voters, 729; total number of voters who voted, 376; 235 of the ballots had no lines; 119 had lines but no effect on the result.

Chairman: So, 22 ballots were affected by the lines…

Pablo Manalastas: I’m very worried…that a big percentage of the machines were generating unwanted lines on the (image) ballots…But the fact that the machines are so bad that they generate unwanted lines–In fact, if you vote, the Comelec will tell you, “Don’t make any marks on the ballot”…if the machine itself is making the marks, we should throw the machines away…

Chairman: We could have also accidental winners. Kasi…you found it in 11 machines, we could not say that this did not also happen in countless other machines, in thousands other machines, hindi ba?…

Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim: …ngayon ko lang narinig…kung ano ‘yong cause of that foreign object, how it affected all these 11…

Chairman: Seventy-seven thousand i-minus natin iyong 230 something…You’ll have to examine the 77,000 machines in that manner to determine whether or not they generate lines? Are you alarmed with the…

Lim: Yeah, I’m concerned. Ngayon ko lang narinig na may ganon pala.”

Why did it take seven months for the Comelec to know the initial results of the TEC findings?

Episode VI (2014 –2016). The question raised by Senator Pimentel after December 2013about the condition of the rest of the 77,000 PCOS machines and even the real root cause of the digital lines were never discussed in the next four CERPP hearings in March, May and June 2014. Good thing that the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on the automatic election system (AES) was finally convened on August 14, 2014 to discuss the Comelec’s assessment of the 2013 elections as mandated by the AES law (RA 9369). Let me just quote some of the highlights of the hearing:

“Chairman (Senator Pimentel): So, the (Comelec) Chairman (Brillantes) mentioned at least three problems…PCOS machine replacements, CF card replacements, and the failure to transmit to the transparency server…But…we were briefed by the RMA committee…there was a mention of digital lines being created by the machines…Because if machines create digital lines, it may affect…

Brillantes: Yes, Your Honor. This is part of the enhancement that we’re trying to resolve in the coming 2016 election…there are two factors that has to be considered in determining what happened to these lines…it could have affected the Mylar or it could have been affected by the marking pen…

Chairman: Did we notice digital lines in the 2010 elections…

Brillantes: …there was no report of any lines in the 2010 elections. This came out in the 2013.

Chairman: So, as of now…we cannot pinpoint the cause of the digital lines.

Brillantes: …it’s either the marking pen or the Mylar itself. We are trying to solve the problem.”

Former Comelec lawyer, Melchor Magdamo, even mentioned that the digital lines were already detected during the 2010 elections. He said: “Yung lines na yan, I pointed it out as early as 2010. Ang tawag ko doon, lines lang! Mas malalim lang ang nakita ng DOST, digital lines.”

After a month, the JCOC convened on September 18, 2014. As usual, Comelec didn’t give any specific root cause of the problem. I quote:

“Senator Cayetano: …Anong ibig ninyong sabihing puwedeng mangyari? Puwedeng mangyari po, apat lang ang binoto ng isang tao pero labindalawa po ang bibilangin noong makina?

Brillantes: Tama ho iyon…paisa-isa, mayroon hong nangyayaring ganoon.

Cayetano: So, you mean, Mr. Chair, puwedeng nakaupo ako ditto sa Senado hindi naman pala ako binoto ng tao, hindi cheating iyon?

Brillantes: Hindi ho cheating iyon. Puwede hong mayroon nagkamali ng kuwan. Iyong makina ho ang may glitch. Makina ho iyon.

Chairman (Pimentel): …as a candidate, ayoko…i-digital lines even if I appear to be a beneficiary of that digital line…So, that’s why whether candidate or ordinary citizen, we want an automated election system which does not generate digital lines…What do we call this body that you will create to study this phenomenon of digital lines na in three months…Committee on Digital Lines (CDL)…

Brillantes: In three months. Lagyan na ho natin ng specific deadline…Before Christmas.”

Come December 2014 and beyond, the digital lines issue were never heard of again. AES Watch didn’t see even a shadow of the CDL members.

* * *

This Lenten Season, we pray that Comelec officials will finally come to their spiritual senses not to use Smartmatic machines in the 2019 elections. Amen!

(To be continued)

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