The Philippine Star - Erasing all doubts

By Jose C. Sison | The Philippine Star

Up to now, talks are still ongoing about the elections held last May 13, 2019. People cannot forget and are still entertaining doubts on the over-all results of said elections both in the national and local levels. The prevailing assessment is that it is the “dirtiest” election we ever had. To be sure, there were already glitches in the previous automated elections we had using the PCOS machines of Smartmatic. Yet Comelec still persisted in using the same machines in the last elections. Thus people cannot help but come up with so many unsavory conclusions against the Comelec. In fact even Duterte himself has recently ordered the replacement of Smartmatic in conducting our automated elections.

Even if the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) found no proof of fraud and manipulations in the Automated Election System (AES), and expressed satisfaction on its overall results, dirty talks and nasty speculations still continue to hound the minds of so many people especially because poll watchdogs like “Kontra Daya” expressed disbelief on JCOC’s findings. In fact “Kontra Daya” already came out with a summary report on election day itself that there many vote counting machines or VCMs and the voter registration verification machines which malfunctioned, thus causing the disenfranchisement of voters, delays, rejected or stuck up ballots and or voter receipts. The group likewise found discrepancies in receipts generated by the machines as well as massive vote buying in various parts of the country. Actually JCOC Chairman Koko Pimentel admitted that “It’s really difficult to have a perfect, glitch free election. What is important is we have learned from our mistakes and we will not do it again.”

Perhaps one of the ways of avoiding said mistakes in future elections is to consider the proposal of some election experts. They are proposing that we adopt another system of conducting our election. Instead of the pure automated election system (AES), it has been suggested that we adopt a hybrid system where the actual voting and counting of votes will be manually done. Under this system the voters themselves will write the names of candidates for elective positions while the teachers will open the ballots and publicly count the votes in front of watchers and voters interested in finding out the actual results in their precincts. The automation will be concentrated only in the canvassing of votes cast nationally and locally so as to hasten the process of finding out the results and proclaiming the winners.

In the meantime and for purposes of dispelling doubts about the integrity of the last election, the Comelec should grant the right of some candidates to validate the integrity of the Election Returns (ERs) by furnishing them with a copy of the audit results of the Random Manual Audit (RMA) on identified cluster of election precincts not only nationally but also locally, more particularly in cities and municipalities or the legislative districts therein. RMA refers to the visual reading of votes on the paper ballots or its equivalent without the use of a machine, and a comparison of said results to the results generated by the machine count (Comelec Resolution 10525 Section 1). Such RMA is in compliance with the mandate of the law on automated election and in the avowed policy of the State to ensure that the elections shall be transparent and credible and that the results shall be fast, accurate, and reflective of the genuine will of the people.

The RMA procedure involves the recount of votes undertaken by a RMA Team (RMAT) constituted by the Comelec’s RMA Committee (RMAC) pursuant to the procedure laid down in Sections 13 and 15 of Resolution 10525, as follows:

1. Retrieve the valid ballots from the ballot box, perform a physical count and compare if the number of valid ballots found inside the ballot box is equal to the number of valid ballots counted as indicated in the Election Returns.

2. Proceed with the counting of votes for Senators, Member House of Representatives, Vice Mayor and Councilors in the mid-term election.

3. For every ballot, the chairman shall announce the votes cast. The secretary shall accomplish the six (6) copies of the Audit Returns and respectively record thereon each vote read by the chairman, while the third member does the same on the Tally Board.

4. After all the ballots or receipts have been read, the secretary and third member shall compute and record, in words and figures, the total number of votes obtained by each candidate in the Audit Returns and the Tally Board. The secretary and third member shall then compare if their tallies are the same; otherwise, they shall repeat the counting procedure until their tallies are the same.

5. The chairman shall enter the AES results, as reflected in the Election Returns, for president, vice-president, senators, member house of representatives, governor and mayor as the case may be, in the Audit Minutes.

6. The chairman shall then compare the AES results with the RMA results to determine if discrepancy exists.

7. Upon conclusion of the RMA, all RMAT members shall affix their signature on the RMA Minutes, Tally Board and Audit Returns attesting to the contents thereof. Watchers shall witness the recording of entries and affixing of signatures of the RMAT members. The chairman shall immediately notify the RMA Center supervisory team of the results of the RMA, who in turn, shall report the same to the RMAC.

This tedious process undertaken by RMAT are significant and useful especially in determining if there are discrepancies between the Election Returns and the genuine count of votes of a candidate for specific position. Thus it will validate the ERs and the integrity of the results of the elections. This is an effective way to determine the genuineness and authenticity of the election results thus erasing all doubts and speculations.

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