The Philippine Star – Dangerous tendency

By Atty. Jose C. Sison | The Philippine Star

Although the next election is still about two years away, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should already act expeditiously to plug the loopholes discovered in the previous elections conducted under the Automated Election System (AES) instituted by RA 8436 as amended by RA 9369 otherwise known as the Automated Election Law. At election is still about two years away, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should already act expeditiously to plug the loopholes discovered in the previous elections conducted under the Automated Election System (AES) instituted by RA 8436 as amended by RA 9369 otherwise known as the Automated Election Law. As borne by the records of the Comelec itself, there are clear indications that the past automated elections do not reflect the accurate and authentic results of the voting. The sad reality is that automation of our elections has not actually attained its main purpose of eliminating the various fraudulent practices and irregularities occurring under the manual system of elections we had prior to the May 1998 elections.

Of course the flaw may not be in the Automated Election Law itself as contained in Republic Act 8436 as amended by RA 9369 entitled “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Use an Automated Election System (AES) in the May 11, 1998 National and Local Elections and in Subsequent National and Local Electoral Exercises, to Encourage Transparency, Credibility, Fairness and Accuracy of Elections.” In fact said law even provides in Section 29 that, where the AES is used, there shall be a random manual audit (RMA) in one precinct per congressional district randomly chosen by the Commission in each province or city. And “any difference between the automated and manual count will necessitate the determination of its root cause by initiating a manual count for those precincts affected by the computer or procedural error.”

Apparently the law has adequate provisions to insure credibility, fairness and accuracy of the elections. So the problem may also lie in the implementation of said law which, in this case, is vested on the Comelec. And this problem is clearly manifested in the last local elections, especially in some cities of the National Capital Region.

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One glaring example here is the most recent election of the vice mayor of Quezon City. As required by RA 8436 amended by RA 9369, an RMA was conducted by the Comelec on the results of said election. Thus on July 3, 2019, the Records and Statistics Division of the Comelec issued certified true copies of the data gathered during the random manual audit (RMA Data) conducted on selected clustered precincts in Quezon City.

Upon perusal of the above mentioned RMA Data, it appears that there are inexplicable discrepancies in the (a) Tally Sheets, (b) Summary of Votes cast under the AES and (c) Summary of Votes as per the RMA. These discrepancies can be categorized as follows:

Alterations/erasures in the Tally Sheet which were not countersigned nor reported in the minutes of the RMA;

The number of votes cast does not match the number of voters who voted and/or the number of ballots inside the ballot box; and

The number of votes in the Tally Sheet does not match the Summary of Votes as per the RMA.

The foregoing inexplicable discrepancies appear to regularly and systematically occur in the identified clustered precincts. And it is quite clear that the nature of the discrepancies impugn the integrity of the ballots cast by the voters because: first, the erasures/alterations made on the Tally Sheets were never countersigned nor explained in the minutes, thus indicating an apparent attempt to match the RMA results with the AES results; second, the discrepancies between the number of votes cast in the clustered precincts and the total number of voters who actually voted is quite dubious and highly irregular; and third, the difference between the total number of votes cast manually counted in the Tally Sheet and the total number of votes reported during the RMA undoubtedly show that the results of the last Automated Election is not as accurate as they should be.

In view of these irregularities, a manual recount of the election results is called for in order to determine the root cause of said discrepancies and the true and actual results of said election as provided by Section 29 of RA 9369 which amended the Automated Election Law or RA 8436.

So on July 16, 2019, a “Manifestation and Motion to Conduct a Recount” was filed before the Comelec pertaining to the election of the vice mayor of Quezon City. This manifestation and motion was referred by the Comelec en banc to the “Ponente” on July 29, 2019. From that date up to the present, despite the lapse of more than one year, said manifestation and motion has not yet been resolved. Two previous “motions to resolve” were already filed but still no action or recount has been undertaken by the Comelec.

In the interest of truth and to achieve the main purpose of the Automated Election Law so that its enactment will not be in vain, Comelec should immediately act and resolve this pending motion to conduct a recount. Otherwise we will be backsliding into the previous manual process of national and local elections tainted with fraud, cheating and other irregularities where the results and the real winners were known only a few days, weeks or months before their terms of office end. The ball is now in the hands of the Comelec. People are hoping that it will expeditiously conduct a recount as soon as possible to stop the dangerous tendency to backslide.

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