POSTSCRIPT / May 4, 2004 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Belmonte's 3 years far better than Mathay's 9

BLACK EMAIL: Here is friendly warning to the email brigades sending endless black propaganda via the Internet against the political foes of their bosses or clients.

The same libelous muck is sent out ostensibly by different people hiding behind such public addresses as yahoo and hotmail (never from email addresses supplied by the traceable Internet Service Providers).

Exasperated with the deluge of black propaganda clogging our inbox, we traced the various senders — and confirmed our suspicion that only two, sometimes three, computers are being used to send out the same materials.

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ELECTRONIC SLEUTHING: While we cannot immediately identify the persons generating and encoding the malicious materials, it is easy to trace and identify the machines they are using and the carriers and relays involved.

Time and resources permitting, plus a little luck, electronic sleuthing could unmask the persons identified with the machines. Victims could thus pinpoint their tormentors and initiate criminal action.

Advice to black propagandists: Stop it.

As far as we are concerned, the materials are useless and may even be counterproductive because they just irritate us. They are useless, because we do not bother to read them. We can now spot the offending items a mile away, and delete them without reading.

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ADVANCE CANVASS: We just had an interesting filling in on the technical aspects of the plan of the Commission on Elections to do its own “quick count” for the May 10 national elections.

This involves the electronic transmission to the Comelec base of election results from the precincts throughout the archipelago. This covers the votes for the president, the vice president, the senators, down to the last local official.

The computerized consolidation in Manila is in real time, aided by a satellite relay. We should know the winners within 36 hours after the ballots are counted. This will limit the window of opportunity available to dagdag-bawas (plus&minus) artists.

We will tell you more about the Comelec project called “VSAT Setup” a little later.

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BELMONTE VS MATHAY: People are still talking, in good humor, about the recent konfrontasi between Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte and comebacking Mel Mathay and their noisy followers on the Dong Puno Live show on the ABS-CBN channel.

The clear winner in that raucous town hall-type TV debate was Belmonte. The nine-year administration of Mathay was dismal compared to just three progressive years of Belmonte at City Hall.

What’s more, Belmonte was ready with the vital data, including some tell-tale documents, while Mathay — now the outsider looking in — could only rely on unreliable memory.

The news reporter that he used to be in his younger days, Belmonte knew what information he might just need, and knew how to deliver it on a fleeting medium like TV.

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MAURICIO ON HIS FEET: Belmonte somehow reminds us of lawyer Mel “Batas” Mauricio, another former reporter, whom you must have come across on TV and radio explaining a legal point in his usual lucid, logical manner and reciting citations without notes.

After years of giving free legal assistance to victims of our expensive and lopsided court system, Mauricio is now running for senator on the ticket of presidential candidate Raul Roco. His battle cry is, you guessed it, free legal aid and free education.

Really, if all we are being offered are Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid and other characters whose only drawing quality is their being actors or brand names, we would choose Batas Mauricio any time. There is no comparison.

The name of the game in the deliberative Senate is lawmaking. Let us not trivialize the venerable legislature by letting in actors, basketball players, zero-weight housewives, and dying political dinosaurs.

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PROFLIGACY: On Dong Puno’s show, Belmonte was ready with documents, including checks, to prove the profligacy of his predecessor.

Among the embarrassing revelations on the TV show were the documents showing that more than half of the P2.5 billion debt left by the Mathay administration had to be paid by his successor Belmonte.

It was also revealed that during Mathay’s time, Quezon City was spending close to P1 billion each year for garbage collection alone, yet most of the city was strewn with stinking trash. Belmonte cut this bill down to just a little over P500 million, and showed a cleaner city for it on his very first term.

Garbage is one concern where long-time residents see the glaring contrast in their management styles. Quezon City now is far cleaner than how it was under Mathay. Efficiency under Belmonte improved despite the cost-cutting he instituted.

Hello, what is it that Mathay still wants to go back to?

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ELECTRONIC COUNT: If plans do not miscarry, days before Congress convenes to canvass the votes in the May 10 elections for president and vice president, the whole nation would know in advance who the winners are.

Under the Comelec VSAT Setup, No. 3 copies of the election returns from all precincts are taken to the town center where the results are saved into a secured computer whose only function is to accept the data and send it by satellite to the National Consolidation Center in Alabang, Rizal.

As the returns are moved electronically to the NCC, there is simultaneous totalling of the votes. At any given time, the world will know how many votes in how many precincts in what places have been counted and what each candidate from the president down has garnered so far.

The computers in the municipal voting centers are linked to Manila by satellite. There will be no landlines and dialing-up procedure to delay and possibly pollute the process.

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OFFICIAL & UNOFFICIAL: The Comelec supplementary “quick count” is both official and unofficial. It is official because it is an official count of the Comelec. But it is also unofficial as it is not the manner of consolidation mandated by law.

It is actually only Congress that is authorized by law to canvass the votes for the president and the vice president. For this purpose, the Comelec “quick count” is not to be considered official.

This dual character of the Comelec “quick count” is admitted by Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos, who is pushing this other count parallel to the official presidential canvass by Congress to make the count transparent, efficient and insulated from tampering.

Abalos said that this being the case, the Comelec would publish the running totals or the consolidated results only of the senators and lower officials. The totals for president and vice president at any given time are available to Comelec through the same satellite network, but will not be published.

Persons with Internet connection can log onto a dedicated website where the Comelec will publish the running totals for all positions in all towns, provinces and districts (for congressmen) and the entire country — except those for the president and the vice president.

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DISCREPANCIES: Suppose there is a discrepancy between the final tally in the election canvass for president and vice president and the results of the Comelec “quick count”?

Theoretically, there should not be any discrepancy since both will be based on official data from the precincts that are watched and double-checked by political parties, NGOs, the Namfrel and other interested entities.

If the electronic “quick count” score is different from the “paper” canvass involving the physical shipping to Congress of the municipal and provincial certificates of canvass, then — according to Abalos — there should be an investigation.

The conducting of two counts, Abalos said, is a safeguard against cheating, including dagdag-bawas, of which he said he had himself been a victim.

The VSAT system is not yet refined or in place in its final form when we saw it demonstrated, but our initial impression is that it has the potential for reducing cheating in the canvassing of votes.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 4, 2004)

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