AES WATCH Post-Election Conference Statement

Just as we are terrified at the devastation wrought by supertyphoon Yolanda in the Visayas and other regions, so do we continue to grieve over the rape of our electoral system committed in the May 2013 mid-term elections – far worse than in 2010. None can compare the tragedy of thousands of human lives gone and the unprecedented economic losses caused by Yolanda and all other disasters that struck our country this year with the way the electoral system was subverted last May. But, as well, we grieve no end over how automated elections have been compromised by the repeated non-compliance by the poll body of the election law, by an unreliable technology marketed by an equally unreliable and rapacious foreign company (Smartmatic), by the persistence of widespread cheating in its traditional – and today “modern” – form.

We are even more appalled by the wall of indifference erected by many Congress leaders including those from the Joint Congressional Advisory Committee (JCOC) against public demands to – as mandated on this oversight committee – assess the poll automation, legislate to repair the system, and heed the clamor for electoral reform. To them we say: Enough is enough, do your work!
Last March or two months before the mid-term elections, the AES Watch through its System Trustworthiness, Accuracy, and Reliability (STAR) Card, rated the Comelec’s poll automation project as not only ill prepared but a “failure” – by legal and technological standards. The rating was validated by how the mid-term automated elections went such as, among others: the non-compliance by the poll body of major safeguards, security, auditability, and other minimum requirements and basic industry standards; massive machine breakdowns and transmission failures; counting discrepancies and millions of missing votes, equivalent to a significant disenfranchisement of voters; a biased and incredible random manual audit; and the premature proclamation of winners based on “projected results.”

The telltale signs of a failed second automated election which we first cited on May 18 have even been more confirmed by months of further research and investigation by AES Watch beginning with the unexplained 12M vote surge only a few hours after polls closed, and by major events that unfolded thereafter. What we disclose in today’s post-election conference is disturbing – and foretells a political disaster in 2016 and future elections – just as we propose urgent and constructive reforms so that we will not be haunted by past albeit deliberate mistakes and violations by poll managers and technology supplier. Our research and investigations reveal: 

  • A huge discrepancy of 59M votes between the Comelec list of winning senatorial candidates (June 5, 2013) and the Comelec public access website (May 17, 2013);
  • Attempts to cover up the election blunders and anomalies through post-election excess ballot printing and the killing of two reporters-whistleblowers;
  • The existence of a suspicious 60-30-10 final share of canvassed votes among the PNoy Team, UNA, and all other candidates – true at all levels of the canvassed votes from the clustered precincts to municipalities/cities, provinces, regions, and the national canvass. The 60-30-10 results remain questionable and disturbing more so given that there has been no conclusive review of the missing voting source code, no credible RMA of the election, and because of the disabling by Comelec and Smartmatic of the various safeguards and accuracy requirements as mandated.
  • Absence of a digital signature, hence, no legal basis for proclaiming “winning” candidates.
  • No public or transparent and uninterrupted counting of votes, as mandated by the Omnibus Election Code (Sec. 206, Article XVIII) as well as RA 9369. The mid-term election canvassing was marked by long interruptions and tampering of the program through “encrypting.”

In the mid-term elections, AES Watch along with other citizens’ election watchdogs, demanded a parallel manual count of votes and, after the May 13 fiasco, the opening of all ballot boxes for a recount. These were, as anticipated, ignored.

WE CHALLENGE the Comelec to disprove our findings by releasing to the public all vital election documents which we, together with other election watch groups, political parties, the Supreme Court, and even legislators have been asking since 2009 – including the real source codes, transmission and audit logs, and other data. The academic community, IT professionals and other stakeholders can only provide complete and no-nonsense studies if equipped with major and critical data disclosed by the election body as a matter of public information.

The corruption and commercialization of the election process continues with the deliberate and systematic denials of critical documents and information by an election body that is beholden to the powers that be and chaired by an election lawyer who – at one time in his professional career counseled the Ampatuans of the infamous Maguindanao massacre – and now takes pride in maligning vocal citizens groups and stifling legitimate dissent by all means such as the use of presidential pork to conduct surveillance of election critics. 

Comelec should first be held accountable for the major violations of law before it is able to take the path to genuine reforms now before the next elections. No reform can be possible without dealing with the culture of impunity that mocks the electoral process.

Unless all the problems of accuracy, transparency, and credibility of the voting and counting system are addressed, the results of the automated elections will remain to be contested and the proclaimed candidates will continue to hold office under a shadow of illegitimacy.

As we first stated in October 2010, the Smartmatic PCOS should be junked now! The Filipino IT community and other citizens’ election stakeholders should be involved in designing a new election system compliant with IT standards and best practices, with the right of suffrage, and with the demands of transparency, reliability, and auditability. The right to vote should never be compromised to favor a privatized, unreliable, and unsecured election system.

People’s Initiative vs Pork Barrel and the Imperative of State Reform

ISSUE ANALYSIS No. 06
Series of 2013

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Sweeping reform is possible the moment people begin to struggle against personality-oriented leadership, myths, and illusions. It can be done when people begin to act as a collective power.

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
October 10, 2013

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s proposed “citizens’ initiative” sends a clear message that the people should not expect anything noble or act of courage from the Congress and executive department to abolish the whole pork barrel system. Sustained and well-coordinated, the six-million signatures representing 10% of the country’s total registered voters as people’s initiative can be gathered favorable to exercising the people’s constitutional right in initiating a major policy reform without Congress. Many agree with Puno that both the President and Congress – now linked together in the destabilizing P10-mn PDAF scam, presidential pork barrels, and the theft of the Malampaya energy fund – will not abolish pork barrel in whatever sneaky form and, hence, only the people as the sovereign power and as the source of all constitutional authority must prevail.

When all else fails – the state’s key governing institutions refuse to heed public clamor for reform – the constitution supports people’s initiative as the penultimate resort for affirmative action. In contemporary times, people’s initiative as a political right has established a rich legacy of mass struggles – from the street parliament, to extra-constitutional and civil disobedience movements – as in the epochal civilian uprisings that ousted the brutal Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and the morally-bankrupt Estrada regime in 2001, as well as in resign movements backed by impeachment initiatives against the illegitimate Arroyo presidency. Aside from these, other people’s initiatives took the similar paths of mass mobilizations resulting, for instance, in the removal of the U.S. military bases in 1991 after the Senate succumbed to public pressure to reject the proposed bases renewal treaty that was backed by Corazon C. Aquino; as well as in stopping destructive dam projects, illegal logging, mining development aggression, and the graft-ridden Bataan nuclear-powered plant. The backdrop to these contemporary struggles – in basic issues articulated, in the forms the unprecedented mass protests took, and in the comprehensiveness of reform – dates back to the nationalist ferment of the 1960s and the First Quarter Storm of the 1970s with millions-strong protests calling for the radical restructuring of society to end exploitation and oppression by the ruling dynasties and the founding of a new state free from foreign domination.

The proposed people’s initiative against pork barrel dramatizes the failure of reform under a state that for all intents and purposes is in its terminal stage. There is a failed state when major scams and corruption cases involving high officials and politicians are brought to the fore not by the much-touted World Bank-constructed “system of transparency and accountability” but by whistleblowers. There is a failed state when major functions of government – from budget to programs, services, elections, human rights, media protection – need to be monitored by citizens’ watchdogs and investigative journalists precisely because the state’s numerous anti-graft, auditing, oversight bodies, and criminal justice system do not function. There is a failed state when public money is devoured by parasites under a culture of impunity – encouraged no less by the incumbent president – that promotes a conspiracy of corruption between the executive and legislature and covers up criminal syndicates. A failed state is unable to translate claimed GDP growths into food and jobs to majority of the people. In short, rehashed WB formulas blindly followed by the government – then and now — have all failed to uplift the lives of the poor and simply made the few wealthy families richer and more entrenched.

While systemic corruption clearly underscores a failure of governance it also aggravates the state’s inability to address widening income disparities (e.g., today the net assets of 40 richest Filipinos correspond to the total income of 60 million Filipinos), in ensuring economic stability, human security measured in terms of all-sided development, public services, human rights and rule of law, among others. On these indices, the state under the Aquino regime fails. Whether one agrees with its indicators, the U.S. Fund for Peace’s 2013 “Failed States Index” (FSI) ranks the Philippines No. 59 as a “failed state” out of 178 countries. Lumped with the Philippines are Somalia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Colombia. Among Asian countries, the Philippines – now considered “in danger” – is outranked by Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Topping the “green” or most stable states is Finland. Early this year, Transparency International also noted no significant improvement in the Philippines’ corruption performance index. Wasn’t this the same prognosis decades ago from Marcos to the present government?

As seen in Aquino’s refusal to abolish the pork barrel – one of the major sources of corruption – such reports show that reform whether political or socio-economic is not only a zero possibility but the present state itself is intrinsically anti-reform. This is explained largely by an elite-driven government and a political system dominated by political clans – the same elements linked to numerous plunder cases – whose narrow interests are interlocked with those of the economic elite. Clan interests dominate the state and its key instrumentalities; no doubt, the state primarily serves their interests. Thus the clan- or elite-dominated state can never be a machinery for genuine reform – nor will it allow “inclusive” governance and growth – since doing so would harm its interests. The heart of the matter in the refusal to abolish the pork is that this measure will significantly reduce politicians’ power and access to public resources – contrary to their agenda of using public office as a business enterprise and as a means of perpetuating dynasties. Allowing the subjects of elite rule – slaves in the old days – to challenge the power of the tyrants over public money is an incendiary that could open the floodgates of more reform, such as abolishing political dynasties or a fair electoral competition. In the first place, Aquino III is of the same mold as the powerful political clans feasting on people’s money. His is of the belief that governance is run by patronage politics, pork barrel, trade-offs, perks, and all – “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” His government is not much different from the past; it is one whole bureaucracy ruled by political dynasties that promotes patronage politics and allows unbridled syndicated theft of the people’s money.

In resisting public demands for real reforms all that past and current regimes could offer are bite-size measures motivated primarily to defuse outrage and project the image of “responsiveness” – “the people are my boss.” Thus, they offer band-aid solutions such as conditional cash transfer funds for poverty alleviation in lieu of lasting genuine rural and land reform; overseas work in lieu of jobs-creating basic industries and manufacturing at home; crumbs of benefits in lieu of minimum wage increases; and demolitions in lieu of real socialized housing programs for the poor. The elite-dominated state has consistently refused to implement the constitutional ban on political dynasties. More evident in the state’s anti-reform ideology is the use of its reactionary coercive machineries – armed forces, police, paramilitary, and death squads – to demonize and silence those advocating for social change. This culture of impunity remains strong until today. This should stop.

Yet, there are brighter prospects of mobilizing and harnessing various forms of people’s initiatives and struggles for genuine reform. The mass politicization triggered by the nationalist ferment of the 1960s continues to express and articulate the communal or collective desire for democratization, against authoritarian rule, cronyism, and elitist politics and, on a broader scale, for economic equality and people’s effective representation in governance. Various creative forms of struggle have succeeded in removing oppressive regimes a number of times – hijacked also a number of times most despicably by opportunistic elite factions – to electoral exercises, legislative engagements, citizens’ watching, community organizing, to – on the part of the radical Left and Bangsamoro people – revolution.

Significantly, more and more people including those from the middle-income sectors, are beginning to realize the futility and bankruptcy of bourgeois reform (tokenism) and are disillusioned by the myth of “clean politics” (e.g., of the Aquinos) as they are increasingly enraged by traditional politics. The burger chain-inspired “daang matuwid” (clean governance) has today become a butt of ridicule. Talks about the loss of public trust in government in its entire spectrum are fertile ground for the convergence of genuine reforms on the state. While before the targets of public outrage were despots and individual plunderers today more and more unorganized masses are talking about sweeping institutional reform.

But how to go about this remains a question.

Such qualitative changes in social and political consciousness are key toward strategizing upon where people’s struggles should go. There is, for instance, a need to distil, sharpen, systematize, visualize, and popularize key political advocacies, linking a specific issue (e.g., pork barrel and corruption) to the core issues of elite rule and bureaucrat capitalism. Social media is fine but it can never be a substitute to the more effective direct mass engagements, discussions, and street protests. The media, on the other hand, should not only expose anomalies but should be critical observers and active change multipliers as well.

People’s initiatives such as petition signing should be a means of public discussion and should result in the broadening of mass and organized mobilizations. Such vibrant and dynamic mass politics can give birth to more mass leaders, organizers, advocates, and trimedia message articulators. Although the spontaneity of mass protests will continue and increase as public demands are unheeded and, hence, the momentum of reform will intensify such positive efforts should be able to evolve into a broad coalition of reform voices to give teeth and leadership to any political program while respecting the independent initiatives of coalition forces. Spontaneity has the potential of broadening the spectrum of forces advocating democratic reform; organizing and leading a critical mass will move it forward.

The current political discourse provides the platform for raising anew the issue of alternative people’s governance – and how such vision can be enhanced by building and sustaining people empowerment. On this point the various – not necessarily competing – political perspectives that gravitate around the anti-pork barrel rallies as well as forums on reform should find congruence. Vigilance should be maintained in not allowing the advocacy for genuine reform be distorted or misguided by opportunism and by those compromising with the powers that be. Sweeping reform is possible the moment people begin to struggle against personality-oriented leadership, myths, and illusions. It can be done when people begin to act as a collective power.

Lessons have to be learned from previous people’s struggles particularly in the two Edsa uprisings. Only a struggle on the side of the people can be just and won. Change can only be effected by the people – no one else will. The time to stop the insanity of this kind of government system, inherently despicable with its insatiable greed for power and hypocrisy is NOW

For reference:

Bobby M. Tuazon
Director for Policy Studies
Center for People Empowerment in Governance
3F CSWCD Bldg., Magsaysay Avenue, University of the Philippines, Diliman 1101, Quezon City
TelFax +9299526; email info@cenpeg.org, cenpeg.info@gmail.com

[Comic relief]: Anthropomorphic Nouns

This is too much fun not to share. You just can’t make this kind of stuff up. Be sure to read the whole thing then enjoy your belly laugh to start your day! The English language has some wonderfully anthropomorphic collective nouns for the various groups of animals. We are all familiar with a …

Herd of cows

cow

a Flock of chickens

chickens

a School of fish

1fish

and a Gaggle of geese.

geese

However, less widely known is:

a Pride of lions

lion

a Murder of crows (as well as their cousins the rooks and ravens)

crow

an Exaltation of doves

doves

and, presumably because they look so wise, a Parliament of owls.

owls

Now consider a group of Baboons. They are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates. And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons?

baboons

Believe it or not … a Congress!

congress

A CONGRESS OF BABOONS!
I guess that pretty much explains the things that come out of Washington!

AES Watch conveners ask SC for Writ of Habeas Data vs Comelec

Today, 14 conveners and members of the Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a Writ of Habeas Data against Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. and six other commissioners of the Comelec.

The Writ petitioners, among them former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman and Comelec whistleblower Atty. Melchor Magdamo, asked the SC to compel the Comelec to cease and desist from placing AES Watch member-organizations under surveillance using a P30M intelligence fund. They also asked the high court to direct the respondents to disclose to the court and petitioners and, subsequently, to destroy whatever intelligence information had been intentionally gathered against AES Watch members and other election watchdogs.

Magdamo, former Comelec lawyer, exposed 2013 election scams and unconscionable expenses in the bidding of the unbundled items on warehousing, delivery, ballot printing, paper ballots, etc. In 2010, he successfully proved the multi-million overpricing of the secrecy folders used in the 2010 poll automation that caused the suspension of Comelec project director Jose Tolentino, Jr.  Lagman, Comelec’s only IT commissioner, was not reappointed for being critical of the Smartmatic-provided poll automation. Continue reading

Thai election commissioners jailed for four years

Here’s why Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and other officials accountable should be wary:

Thai election commissioners jailed for four years

via http://m.brne.ws/world/thai-election-commissioners-jailed-for-four-years-269273.html

Thailand’s three election commissioners, seen as close allies of embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, were today sentenced to four years in prison for allowing unqualified candidates to run in parliamentary elections in April.

The three commissioners were found guilty of violating election laws and abusing their powers by allowing candidates in April 2 balloting to run in different constituencies in a second round of voting on April 23. The country’s top courts later nullified the poll results, saying the elections were unconstitutional.

The conviction is a setback for Thaksin because all three commissioners are seen as his allies and their actions were widely viewed as a favour to the prime minister.
The court also revoked the commissioners’ right to vote and conduct any political activities for 10 years.

“The election commissioners carried out the elections in an unfair manner,” the court said. “They are found guilty … and the court sentences them to four years in prison.”

If the court grants them bail, the commissioners – Vasana Puemlarp, Prinya Nakchudtree and Virachai Naewboonnien – would still be allowed to carry out their responsibilities. It was not immediately known when the court would decide whether to allow bail.
Prinya said that he and his co-defendants would appeal the verdict.

“I hope the court will grant us mercy by granting us bail,” he said.
He added that they would maintain their status as commissioners, which they would lose if the Supreme Court also finds them guilty.

“We will continue to perform our duties until the last minute,” Prinya said. “I insist that we are innocent … I am appealing for public sympathy. I did not do anything wrong.”

Opposition Democrat party leader Thavorn Seniem, who filed the lawsuit against the commissioners, petitioned the court asking that the commissioners not be granted bail.

“They have reaped the consequences of what they have done … If they are allowed to stay outside prison and continue to carry out their duties, they will endlessly commit wrongdoing,” Thavorn said. “I believe that the next election will be more fair.”

Thaksin dissolved Parliament and called the April 2 elections three years ahead of schedule in an effort to defuse a growing protest movement calling for his resignation on grounds of alleged corruption and abuse of power.

His party won after the three main opposition parties boycotted the polls and millions of voters marked an abstention box on their ballots as a protest against the prime minister.

The boycott and abstentions meant that in some constituencies, winners could not be certified because they failed to attain a legal minimum share of the registered vote. The inconclusive results left Parliament unable to convene.

The Election Commission called new balloting on April 23, in a decision seen as favouring Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party.

The top courts annulled the inconclusive elections and urged the commissioners to resign so that new commissioners could be appointed to ensure fairness in new general elections set for October 15. #

PCOS machine: Is it a boon or bane to free and honest polls?

This was sent via e-mail to AES Watch by a concerned citizen in N. Cotabato

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Two days after the elections, the people of North Cotabato could not still seemingly understand the results of the recent polls.

The results do not seem to speak of the huge crowds which filled our rallies who came not because of money or rice and who stood in the rain with empty stomachs.

I believe that if a person could withstand hunger for four hours just to see and listen to their political leader, it is most likely that he will be able to withstand the temptation of rice and money.

The best example of this controversy is the town of Pigcawayan where an estimated 14,000 attended last big rally of gubernatorial bet Manny Piñol and displayed so much emotion during his speech that we believe at least 90 per cent of the crowd wanted him back as their Governor.

When the votes were counted, Piñol lost by almost 2,000 votes in a town where he have never lost an election since he entered politics.

Indeed, money and rice flowed but I estimated that these would have only swayed a certain percentage of the voters.

The next target of suspicion would be the PCOS machines.

My IT Team which handled made the following observations during the election:

1. A huge number of PCOS machines did not work. In the town of Makilala alone, 12 PCOS machines out of the 61 units assigned there did not work. That is roughly 20% of the PCOS machines which conked out prompting the BEIs to hold a manual voting.

2. In the town of Pikit, armed groups led by the barangay chairmen who were promised money just to defeat gubernatorial candidate Piñol, tampered with the PCOS machines cutting off the plastic seals protecting the CF Cards and inserted new CF cards. Witnesses said the results were different from the actual votes of the people in many villages.

3. My IT Group and other IT experts are now looking at the difference between the actual results of the elections based on the ERs retrieved by the watchers and the transmitted results. In one barangay for example, the transmitted results showed over 900 votes cast when the actual number of voters in the precinct was only over 600.

4. We are also looking into the earlier reports that there are 6,000 missing PCOS machines and these could have been used in pre-loading CF cards which could have been used in transmitting doctored results to the PBOC.

We will also use the results of our post election analysis in the advocacy that we are going to wage which is to STOP the use of the PCOS machines in Philippine elections and to find better ways of determining the will of the people.

Are you spying on us? AES Watch asks Brillantes

The Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) today dared Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr., of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to clarify that its P30M counter-intelligence fund (CIF) was not intended to spy on IT groups and election watchdogs critical of the Comelec-purchased Smartmatic PCOS technology and the way the automated mid-term elections were conducted.

The citizens’ watchdog issued the demand even as it asked Comelec along with the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on AES to secure all PCOS machines, CCS software, ballot boxes, and other election paraphernalia needed for auditing the now-tainted mid-term election system and subjecting it to forensics scrutiny. Continue reading