The Manila Times - 2019 elections: ‘Laway’ of Venezuelans or ‘talino’ of Filipinos? (Part 5)

7 March 2018

By Nelson Celis | The Manila Times

Part 5

THE case filed by AES Watch before the Ombudsman on June 18, 2013 didn’t flourish. There was neither a hearing conducted nor a decision made by that office. Actually, it was the second case filed by AES Watch that was not even given a chance to be heard. The first one happened during Episode III when it was filed on June 29, 2010. As of this writing, these two cases are still awaiting the Ombudsman’s decision. But of course, AES Watch has been very eager to receive a subpoena since 2010. When kaya? Or will these cases just be taken for granted?

One of the main complaints of the AES Watch in those cases was the use of uncertified Smartmatic automated election system (AES) in the 2010 and 2013 elections, including those apps running the PCOS machines. That means, Section 11 of the Automated Election Law (RA 9369) was violated: “The (Technical Evaluation) committee shall certify x xx not later than three months before the date of the electoral exercises, categorically stating that the AES, including its hardware and software components, is operating properly, securely, and accurately x xx.” AES Watch argued then that the uncertified AES was illegal and was not fit to be used for our national elections. Hence, AES Watch, led by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, declared: “By committing more errors than those recorded in 2010, by making arbitrary and highly irregular decisions during canvassing, and proclaiming winning candidates prematurely, the Comelec has turned the second automated elections from bad to worse, a technology and political disaster…aside from Comelec’s non-compliance with the election law and the technical glitches…”

Apart from the 60-30-10 pattern discovered by Dr. Lex Muga, former Comelec IT Director Ernie del Rosario had observed an interesting 9-3 formula; that is, 9 winning candidates coming from the LP and 3 from UNA. Del Rosario tipped off the AES Watch group, including Muga, about it via SMS on the late evening of the election when PPCRV results reporting stopped. On the other hand, Dr. Pablo Manalastas found that the precinct results downloaded from the Comelec public access website differed from the same precinct results downloaded on another day/time, in significant ways.

As a sequel to the case filed on June 2013, AES Watch filed a petition on July 3, 2013 for habeas data, not with the Ombudsman, but before the Supreme Court: “The petition involved the P30 million intelligence funds and threats from the Comelec…against critics of the defective Smartmatic PCOS technology used in the 2010 and 2013 elections. This petition…seeks this Honorable Court’s protection over well-oiled program by key members of a constitutional body…to place under surveillance or spy on, its perceived “enemies,” who are actually no more than ordinary citizens concerned about electoral reforms in the country. Such a program, by their own admission supported by a P30-million intelligence fund, is not only unconstitutional because it stems from a misalignment of public funds…but above all because it violates the right of citizens to free expression and the right of citizens to privacy.

In a hearing at the Court of Appeals, AES Watch presented three checks issued to former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman as evidence that funds were used as intelligence and confidential funds. Lagman said that such fund was like the infamous Priority Development Assistance Fund or the congressional “pork barrel.” AES Watch accused Brillantes of hinting that their members were under surveillance. AES Watch counsel, lawyer Harry Roque, said then: “Tanging Comelec lamang ang umamin na ginamit ang intel fund nila laban sa aming mga, diumano, kalaban at saboteurs ng election.” Lagman on the other hand retorted, “Ano ba dapat ang imbestigahan? At meron P30 million binigay sa kanila ng Malacañang, para gastusin sa pag iimbestiga sa amin!”

Another mind-boggling mystery that was denied by Comelec was the nonstop printing of ballots at the Holy Family Printing on Congressional Road in Quezon City sometime in July 2013. AES Watch and a former Comelec lawyer, Melchor Magdamo, questioned it as the elections had been over more than two months ago! Magdamo said: “So there was a shortage of eight million ballots so it’s possible they needed to fabricate eight million ballots!”

About the secret re-appointment of PPCRV as Chair of the Random Manual Audit (RMA) team in 2013, AES Watch wondered why PPCRV was appointed again inspite of its questionable credibility and poor performance in 2010. The team reported that more than half of the total 234 to be subjected to RMA had variances or discrepancies. What do you expect? That’s nothing new as the 2010 RMA of the PCOS machines had only 99.6 percent accuracy rating, way below the required 99.995 percent in the Comelec’s terms of reference (TOR). Worse than that, the Smartmatic’s PCOS machine only attained a 97.215 percent accuracy rating during the mock elections in July 2012. In effect, the PCOS machines did not comply with the Comelec’s TOR! And that its questionable accuracy in vote counting had been a risk issue ever since.

(To be continued)