By Atty. Dodo Dulay | The Manila Times
I AM sure I am not the only viewer of the Senate hearings on the alleged irregularities in the 2016 national elections who ended up with more questions than answers — or more precisely, unanswered questions. First and foremost is the lack of a satisfactory explanation from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic regarding the facts raised by former Biliran congressman and now anti-election fraud advocate, lawyer Glenn Chong.
I call them facts because the data (i.e. system log) used by Chong in his presentation during the Senate hearing came from Comelec itself. Apparently, the same system log was subpoenaed by the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in the election protest filed by 2016 senatorial elections 13th-placer Francis Tolentino against the 12th-placer, Leila de Lima. It would therefore be foolhardy for the poll body to dispute or discredit its own records.
The premise of Chong’s case is very simple really. Citing Comelec Resolution 10057, Section 6, Chong pointed out that the final testing and sealing (FTS) of all voting machines (aka precinct count optical scan [PCOS] machines) during the 2016 national elections should have been done from May 2 to May 6, 2016, ending three days before the elections on May 9, 2016.
As explained by Comelec spokesman James Jimenez in a media interview way back on May 2, 2016, the FTS involves the end-to-end test of the process, from the initialization of the machines, to the voting of 10 people, to the feeding of the accomplished ballots to the VCMs, and until the printing of election returns (ERs).
“The purpose of the FTS is to see to it that the machines installed in that place are working as they should be… After the process, they will seal and lock the machines in the polling precincts and will not be opened again until 5 a.m. on Election Day [May 9, 2016],” Jimenez assured the public then.
Chong then elicited an admission from Smartmatic during the Senate hearing that there was no transmission whatsoever by any PCOS machine in Ragay, Camarines Sur on May 8, 2016, based on the machine’s audit logs. This means the PCOS machines did not — and should not — transmit any data during the “shutdown period” from May 6 to May 8.
If this was the case, Chong asked: Why were there 459 vote counting machine (VCM) transmissions on May 8, 2016 (a day before the elections) from Ragay, Camarines Sur, based on Comelec’s DNS server system logs? The obvious implication of Chong’s exposé is that there were unauthorized (and anonymous) VCMs or “cloned” PCOS machines operating and transmitting bogus results before — and most likely even during — the 2016 national elections.
The revelations of Chong echoes that of Senate President Tito Sotto’s own exposé during a privilege speech last March that the transmission of votes in the municipalities of Libon, Albay and Angono, Rizal began as early as May 8, 2016 even if the Board of Canvassers only convened on May 9, 2016. Sotto also said that the Comelec’s election servers were remotely and “maliciously” accessed by an unidentified user operating from a server in the United States.
Anyway, Comelec and Smartmatic representatives at the hearing were rendered speechless and could not give any answer let alone a plausible clarification to Chong’s bombshell revelation. The best excuse Comelec could come up with is that the election results were supposedly not compromised and that the poll body stands by the results of the 2016 national polls.
That does little, however, to allay the fears of ordinary Filipino voters like myself, especially after Comelec not only voted to buy the same PCOS machines but even renewed the service contract of Venezuela-based Smartmatic Inc. for the midterm elections in May 2019. After Chong convincingly presented his case before the Senate and the public, and without any acceptable explanation coming from the Comelec, it would be the height of irresponsibility — and perhaps even asininity — for the poll body to take on the same provider (and system) whose credibility has already been seriously impugned.
Another compelling reason why Smartmatic and its automated election system shouldn’t be used in the 2019 midterm polls are the ongoing protest petitions of Bongbong Marcos before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) and Francis Tolentino before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
Both election protests are, at its core, an indictment of the automated election process adopted by Comelec and implemented by Smartmatic. A flaw in the system could very well preordain who wins and who loses in the polls.
In the case of Marcos, the difference between winning and losing the vice presidency is a mere 263,473 votes. And if news reports are accurate, Robredo’s tally was reduced by some 5,000 votes after the recount of 210 clustered precincts in Camarines Sur province, according to PET sources. To Marcos supporters, this proves that the PCOS machines are not precise nor tamper-proof.
Tolentino, on the other hand, alleged that the recount of the ballot boxes in one precinct in Bocaue, Bulacan showed that he won over De Lima, but the vote results transmitted on election day reflected that he lost the race. “What sort of situation is that when on May 8, while I was still sleeping in Tagaytay, De Lima already had votes?” said Tolentino.
Since the outcome of the automated election results — and indirectly, the reliability, accuracy and integrity of the results generated by Smartmatic’s VCMs — have been put in issue, it is only prudent that the poll body shift to some other election system, perhaps a hybrid polling system that combines both manual and automated voting processes.
In the meantime, the Comelec should cleanse its ranks and fire all those responsible for making the unauthorized VCM transmissions or for failing to detect and stop the said transmissions. The poll body needs to do some bloodletting if it is to repair its tattered credibility — and regain the confidence of a skeptical public.