The Philippine Star : Defective VCMs?

By Ramon T. Tulfo | The Philippine Star

There are reports that the results of E-Day (election day) on May 9, 2022, might not reflect the true sentiments of the electorate.

From where I sit, if that happens – may God forbid! – it might plunge the country into civil unrest or, worse, a fratricidal conflict.

It will lead to civil unrest, if the powers-that-be declare a failure of election and extend their stay in office.

Fratricide, if followers from either side think they were cheated of victory in the highly polarized electoral contest and take matters into their own hands.

There are disturbing signs.

There is the recent arrest of three hackers who admitted they could breach the Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s system and manipulate the outcome of the 2022 elections.

The hackers said Ricardo Argana, a former employee of Smartmatic, handed them access to the company’s closely guarded system.

Smartmatic is a multinational company hired by the Comelec to provide an electronic voting system.

In Venezuela, Smartmatic itself admitted that the elections to the country’s constitutional assembly were manipulated by one million votes in 2017.

Unknown to the public, the Comelec was having problems with defective vote counting machines (VCMs) and servers.

There were confirmed reports of numerous out-of-order VCMs in Comelec offices in various parts of the country.

If this issue has not been addressed two days before E-Day, it could affect the outcome and credibility of the scheduled national polls.

Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, who’s in charge of overseeing the 2022 elections, is mum on the issue of the defective VCMs.

Casquejo was an election officer in Davao City before being appointed to the Comelec headquarters.

Casquejo’s silence has elicited fears among followers of the two leading rival presidential candidates – Vice President Leni Robredo and former senator Bongbong Marcos – that the defective VCMs might result in Malacañang declaring a failure of election.

The fears are compounded by talks that President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte might declare a revolutionary government as a result of reports of massive electoral fraud.

In several instances, I overheard Digong’s close advisers in the early days of his administration talking about a revolutionary government to give the President ample leeway in introducing reforms in the country.

In hindsight, the revolutionary government should have been imposed in the early days so the President would be given the power to dismiss all the crooks in the military, police and civil service and wage a relentless drug war.

But it’s too late for that now.

Declaring a failure of election to set up a revolutionary government might spark civil disobedience and lead to worse scenarios.

* * *

I had a reunion with former colleagues at the Inquirer on Wednesday, May 4, when we answered a subpoena from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court at the Hall of Justice building.

The only times in the past when we had such a gathering were during the paper’s anniversary celebration and Christmas party, nothing more.

The noise we created – the excitement of meeting one another after all these years, recalling the happy days we had during the paper’s golden years, the small talk and banter – filled the halls of the building’s fifth floor.

We were like kids during recess in school.

What brought us together? A libel case, one of several, filed by the Iglesia ni Cristo, an influential religious sect.

Let me name all my co-accused in the libel case:

Raul Pagalangan, the paper’s former publisher and retired judge of the International Criminal Court; Jose Ma. D. Nolasco, former editor-in-chief; former associate editors Rosario Garcellano, Abelardo S. Ulanday, Artemio T. Engracia Jr., Nilo Paurom, Julieta L. Javellana, Pergentino B. Bandayrel, Juan V. Sarmiento Jr., Raul O. Marcelo, Thelma S. San Juan, Rito P. Asilo, couple Maria Consuelo and Gabriel Formoso, Teddyvic S. Melendres, Michael L. Ubac, Cesar D. Mangawang, Luis D. dela Vega, Emelyn A. Villariba, Zosim Minerva C. Generalao; and former columnist Amado Doronila.

Except for Ulanday, who now handles the paper’s official website, the rest of us have retired or transferred to other media outlets.

Pagalangan was no longer with the paper when the item in my column On Target that offended the sensibilities of the INC was published.

Fellow columnist Doronila had retired from the Inquirer before the same column item was published. Doronila, a prolific writer and an icon in Philippine journalism, is now in Australia.

The couple Billy and Chelo Formoso were already retired when that item came out on March 4, 2017.

Most of my co-respondents were implicated in the libel case even if the concerned column never passed their perusal.

I ask forgiveness from my former Inquirer colleagues for the trouble they had to go through because of me.

I also express my great admiration for their taking the inconvenience in stride. I never heard anybody complain about waiting for the judge to sign our release papers.

One of them was very sick. He said that was the first time in several years that he went out of his house because he was avoiding contracting COVID-19 as he suffers from many ailments.

This former Inquirer colleague was also my colleague at the Manila Bulletin. My drinking buddy then, he said his body could no longer tolerate alcohol. He is no longer the guy I used to know: full of life and fun-loving.

How time changes people.

* * *

A former official of the Duterte administration is living in style now after being kicked out of office not once, but twice.

This ex-official has bought several big houses, including one in a gated subdivision in Laguna, which is referred as Forbes Park of the South.

The guy was asked to resign from his high position the first time and given a sinecure in another agency that deals with money.

He was also asked to resign – read dismissed – from his second office for corruption.