POSTSCRIPT / October 12, 2014 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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PCOS computerized count erred by 86%?

HEFTY 86%!: If a judge trying an election case in Paniqui, Tarlac, were to be believed, the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used in the 2013 elections committed an 86-percent error in counting the votes in that town of 88,000.

To resolve a protest against reelected Paniqui Mayor Miguel Cojuangco Rivilla (Independent) filed by the loser, an “assisting” judge imported from far-away Benguet to handle the case, ordered a manual recount that eventually reversed the PCOS-determined score.

Rivilla’s lead of more than 3,000 votes in an election where some 52,000 votes were cast vanished in the court-supervised recount, and his opponent, Rommel David (Nationalist People’s Coalition), emerged with a margin of 3,684.

The manual revision of the ballots was conducted only by David’s people while Rivilla, relegated by the judge to being a mere observer, watched helplessly. The 4,238 votes credited to Rivilla by the PCOS in 15 clustered precincts were chopped down by the revisors to only 554, or by 86 percent.

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WHAT HAPPENED?: As Rivilla recalled it last Friday in a forum at the Bale Balita in the Clark Freeport, David’s revisors did not count the mayor’s votes whenever they spotted what looked to them like double shading.

Were the contested ballots tampered with or reshaded before the manual revision? If yes, somebody committed a massive fraud. But if not, that means the PCOS computers had counted Rivilla’s double-shaded votes even if they were programed to ignore them as stray votes.

Will Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes accept that his beloved PCOS committed an 86-percent error, especially now that he wants to buy another warehouseful of them before he retires?

Brillantes cannot dodge the question, because Rivilla has run to the Comelec to have the poll body nullify the revision results that, to him, look incredible considering the 86-percent reading error of the PCOS computers.

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SAFEGUARDS IGNORED: The Smartmatic salesmen had made us believe that their second-hand computers were incapable of a margin of error of more than .0099 percent. Experts at the Department of Science and Technology tested the PCOS and gave them a passing mark.

Based on the PCOS machines’ erroneously crediting Rivilla with 3,684 double shaded votes that the optical scan was programmed to ignore or not count (for being stray votes), the “assisting” judge declared protestant David the winner.

In the forum of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI), Rivilla said that if a recount were to be made, it should be done not of the paper ballots that he said may have been tampered with but of the photocopy of the original ballots as saved electronically by the PCOS machines.

But supposed that electronic copy itself had been stolen, tampered with or replaced? The possibilities of fraud are endless what with the Comelec itself violating the measures mandated by law to safeguard the integrity of the 2013 automated elections.

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FAMILY FEUD: After Rivilla was declared winner in 2013, the loser David filed a protest with the regional trial court in Paniqui. This was dismissed for lack of merit, but David filed a second protest, which was similarly thrown out.

Months ago, David filed a third protest. This time an “assisting” judge from Benguet took over and proceeded to order a revision of the ballots.

After 86 percent of Rivilla’s votes were declared as stray votes, from his sala in Benguet (in the Cordillera Autonomous Region up north), the new judge reached out and ordered the mayor to vacate his seat in Paniqui (in Region 3, Central Luzon).

Compounding the mayor’s problems, David’s wife Evelyn who is a kagawad in Paniqui filed an administrative complaint against Rivilla for culpable violation of the Constitution, misconduct and abuse of authority for allowing the payment of the wages of some personnel in the town’s public hospital.

That hospital, named after Rivilla’s late father, may have something to do with what looks like a family feud. The mayor said, however, that he has no problem with his cousins (but conceded he may have crossed the old guards in the Cojuangco clan).

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BOKING FORMULA: On recommendation of the NPC-dominated Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Gov. Victor Yap (NPC) ordered last Wednesday the preventive suspension of Rivilla, who is clinging on for a few more days on the strength of a temporary restraining order of the Comelec.

Rivilla, 46, is a Cojuangco on his mother Lourdes’ side. This doctor of laws from the Santa Clara University (1994) in California is the grandson of the late Dr. Antonio Cojuangco and Doña Victoria U. Cojuangco. But that has not exempted him from the expansive influence of the NPC founded in 1992 by then presidential candidate Danding Cojuangco, his uncle.

In a light vein, some newsmen advised Rivilla, now on his third and last term as mayor, to give up fighting a system dominated by the NPC. By throwing his third limiting term, he would be set free to run anew for mayor in 2016 and not end up in a political cul-de-sac.

Rivilla listened as he was told of the staying power of Mabalacat City Mayor Boking Morales who has served beyond the three-term limit. He always managed to run again by having himself “lose” his protested election to a third and last term. And then, in 2013, his change of status from town to city mayor may have given him another three-term spree!

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 12, 2014)

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