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.