POSTSCRIPT / May 22, 2016 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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12 senators’ victory firms up Leni’s win?

WE WERE sort of holding our breath last Thursday while the votes for the candidates for senator were being canvassed by the Commission on Elections until the poll body proclaimed the 12 winners before the day was over.

The rumored temporary restraining order reportedly being sought by former MMDA chair Francis Tolentino, who was hanging by a thread in the 13th slot, did not materialize. Neither was the canvassing disturbed by any formal pre-proclamation protest.

Unless there is a politico-legal tremor that will overturn the results of that canvass and proclamation, this observer makes a leap of logic that, by extension, the victory of CamSur Rep. Leni Robredo as vice president-elect appears to have been cemented.

All the candidates for national positions were voted for on the same official ballot. The election system that recorded and transmitted the certificates of canvass for the winning senators was the same system that was used for the vice president.

The poll officials who canvassed and transmitted the canvassed votes from the provinces to the Comelec for senatorial and party-list bets were the same ones who sent the certificates of canvass for president and vice president to the Congress for the national canvassing.

Commenting on the unity of the process, veteran election lawyer Romy Macalintal pointed out that the official documents used cannot be valid only for senators, party-list and president — yet invalid for the vice president.

Despite the omnipresence of lawyers of the candidates, and considering that this was the usual Philippine election, there were no recorded objections or any formal accusation of cheating, errors or irregularities in the transmitting and canvassing of the votes.

As for the congressional elections, until Friday we have not heard of electoral protests. Losers have until 15 days after June 30, the assumption of office of the winners, to file protests with the House Electoral Tribunal.

Some of the protests filed involving local contests: Fred Lim vs. Erap Estrada in Manila; Francis Zamora vs. Guia Gomez in San Juan; and Judy Alarilla vs. Henry Villarica in Meycauayan.

Comelec lauded for speedy, orderly polls

FROM PUBLISHED reports, we get the impression that the last national and local elections were successful, probably the cleanest and most transparent in Philippine history.

Considerable improvements were noted – in terms of a voters’ turnout of 81.62 percent, the highest in history; fewer election-related violence; speedy transmission, the fastest ever; number of voting machines working properly at 99.80 percent.

In less than 10 days after the close of voting on May 9, a full 99 percent of all winners nationwide had been proclaimed.

The international community has commended the conduct of the election. US President Barack Obama congratulated the Philippines in a statement noting “that the successful election and record voter participation were emblematic of the Philippines’ vibrant democracy.”

Namfrel Secretary General Eric Alvia said: “The speedy transmission of election returns merits a commendation as it exceeded people´s expectations.”

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said: “We ran several anomaly tests and I am happy to report there was not a single anomaly… Facts do not lie. Numbers do not lie… The data appear to have been untouched.”

But Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon is not that happy. She was incensed by the tweaking on Election Day of the script of the system running the transparency server that collated and publicized the election returns in real time as they came in.

Guanzon said the changing of the script by personnel of Smartmatic, which supplied the hardware and the software, was done in violation of protocol. She wants all responsible parties penalized, especially Smartmatic managers and officials.

On election night, Smartmatics’ project manager Marlon Garcia asked his Comelec counterpart to enter the Comelec password to solve a minor issue noticed by observers at the PPCRV site at the Pope Pius XII Center on UN Avenue.

Many people were asking why the names of some candidates had the question mark (“?”) in them. Examination indicated that the “?” was appearing in place of the Spanish letter “ñ” in some of the names (e.g. Osmeña).

Two separate passwords were needed to open the system, one held by Smartmatic and another by the Comelec. Hence the request of Garcia, who held the Smartmatic password, for the Comelec password whose use was reportedly allowed by Rouie J. Penalba, Comelec ITD officer.

The replacement of the “?” with “ñ” was made. Nobody among the Comelec officials, political party representatives and PPCRV members objected or registered any complaint or observation that the running scores of the candidates had been affected.

Tweaking, tampering separate or linked?

IT SEEMS to us that until a clear connection is shown between the editing of the script and the feared tampering of the vote count, the two issues must be distinguished from each other.

If the tweaking of the script by itself was indeed a violation of the law or standing protocol, all guilty parties must be penalized, even to the extent of Smartmatic’s performance bond being forfeited and its officials jailed.

And if the editing of the script has resulted (regardless of whether it was intentional or not) in the altering of the vote count, that would compound the violation of Smartmatic personnel and whoever in Comelec co-operated or conspired with them.

It is important that the proper specific complaints on either or both of the two questions (of tweaking the script and/or tampering with the vote count) be filed — instead of the candidates or third parties making generalized accusations with a dare to the Comelec to prove them wrong.

If after formal charges are filed and it still cannot be shown that the revising of the script had resulted in the revision of the vote, the matter of cheating should be dropped so we all can move on.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 22, 2016)

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