Category: election automation

Shape up, Comelec by Solita Collas-Monsod

May I ask why it is that nine days after elections, the PPCRV’s tally still covers barely 90% of the election returns? Surely by this time all 76,000 PCOS machines should have been able to transmit the results electronically. That is, after all, part of what an Automated Election System is all about. After all, the Comelec itself had originally stated that two days after the elections, the tally would be complete.

PPCRV has a lot to answer for, as far as I am concerned, particularly because it opposed (successfully) the accreditation of Namfrel which has more than 27 years and at least eight national elections’ worth of counting experience under its belt, compared to PPCRV’s zero experience. At the same time, Comelec also has a lot to answer for because it allowed PPCRV to conduct a public count, even if its accreditation — at least originally anyway, was limited to a count for internal purposes only. If I remember correctly, Comelec’s reason for not accrediting Namfrel was because the elections would be automated, and everybody would have access to the transmitted election returns, so Namfrel raison d’etre was gone. Or some such rot.

Moreover, in the non-automated days, Namfrel had to depend on its volunteers (PPCRV among them) to transmit the manually accomplished official ERs — which was an inherently difficult task because it was entitled to only the seventh or eighth copy which was barely legible — remember, those were the days of carbon copies. Yet it still was able to come up with 80% of the count before the official canvassing took place. Now, PPCRV had access to the fourth PRINTED copy of the ER, aside from, of course, the ERs transmitted to the Pius Center’s server as well as those provided by the Comelec Central Server. Surely it should have been able to do better than 90%? Or is one asking too much?

By the way, Comelec Commissioner Larrazabal told me last Friday night (May 14) that, actually, 98% of the ERs had already been transmitted and received — but the problem was that they were in different servers (Comelec Central Server, Pius/KBP server, City/Municipal Server). This is because there were transmission problems, and some ERs would transmit to one but not to the others, and vice-versa. When I asked if that meant that we would have the results of the 98% available on Saturday, he said no — but they would be available on Sunday (May 16). But as of 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 19, only 90% of the ERs have been tallied, with the PPCRV ready to close shop. Couldn’t the PPCRV have tried to latch on to that additional 8%? Or more to the point, why couldn’t the Comelec download that additional 8% to the PPCRV the way it did the other 90%? Whatever happened to Comelec’s boast that with an automated system, the public would know the results, albeit unofficially, within two days (pardon the nagging)?

Moreover, it was my understanding that the PPCRV was supposed to have been in-charge of monitoring the Random Manual Audit or RMA — of the five precincts per congressional district chosen at random with great fanfare the day before election day. These precincts were to have their ballots manually counted (by a different BEI) right after the machine count. It was a process that should have taken two hours (if three names were counted — President, Vice-President and Mayor) according to the time and motion study conducted by the IT experts. And it was important because it would be an indicator — although not a foolproof one (a hash test of all the machines, I am told, would be the best) — of possible internal rigging of the PCOS machines.

Well, here we are, nine days after election day, and the RMA results aren’t out yet. Reportedly, only 600 of the 1,100 or so precincts have already been audited — this was supposed to have been done on election day, you understand. Why didn’t the PPCRV, which was supposed to be monitoring this, scream about it? But then again, the political parties should have been screaming their heads off, too. The PPCRV was supposed to be watching out for the interests of the voters — to see that their choices were recorded faithfully. The political parties were supposed to be watching out for the interests of their candidates — to see that they would not be cheated.

But in the final analysis, while the PPCRV and the political parties may have fallen down on their jobs, the main responsibility for free , fair and honest elections lies with the Comelec. And even as the Comelec seems to have equated speed with honesty, it has itself fallen down even just on the speed part.

Because, let’s face it: The only reason we are now so sure that Noynoy Aquino is our president-elect is not because of Comelec’s speed, but only because the margin between Noynoy and his nearest rival, with 90% of the votes tallied, is a little over five million, which is about the same as the number of still uncounted (or more accurately, unreported votes), assuming a 75% voter turnout ratio. Which means that even if all the uncounted votes went to Erap Estrada, there would be at most a tie. And again, let’s face it — surely at least some of those unreported votes will also be going to Noynoy.

Or put it in another way: If the presidential race had been closer, the way the Roxas-Binay contest has shaped up to be, the public would still, at this point, have no idea, even with an automated election system, who the winner would be — because at least five million votes have still to be counted/reported, nine days after the election. Of course, if the majority party Lakas-Kampi, and the dominant minority Liberal Party had all the municipal and city certificates of canvas, they should themselves know by now. But we are, after all, talking about what an automated election system should be able to produce in terms of speed, as far as the public is concerned. They are entitled to that, having forked over P11 billion for the project.

The Comelec should be commended? Please. And I am just talking speed. The honesty or accuracy of the results (accurate in terms of reflecting the people’s will) is even more important, and the Comelec hasn’t even begun to resolve that issue, if only through the RMA. Already, talk is rife about politicians having been approached by people offering them specific election results in their favor (complete with percentages for each candidate) in exchange for monetary considerations (P15 million for mayor, P50 for governor, negotiable, 20% down, 80% on delivery). Merely a scam? Maybe. But those who refused to deal ended up on the losing side — in spite of favorable surveys done by credible organizations) — and claim that the winners won with the same percentages offered them, and they lost with the same percentages specified.

Shape up, Comelec.

Press Release: CenPEG Calls for Independent Probe of Automated Polls

The May 10 Elections: Questions, Answers
The Call to Form an Independent and Impartial Body to Review and Assess the Automated Elections;
Impartial Investigation of Election Irregularities
By the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
May 17, 2010

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) congratulates the teachers, media, watchdogs, and the Filipino people, for their collective efforts at vigilance and dedication to national interest during the May 10, 2010 national and local elections. Although there should yet be no judgment on the overall failure or success of this electoral exercise, these people provided the face of Government where Government, particularly the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its agent Smartmatic, was non-existent. They demonstrated to the Filipino nation the values of accountability and transparency in their own humble way.

These traits we witnessed in the face of what many believed to be the Comelec’s and Smartmatic’s seeming disorganization, ill-preparedness and chaotic indifference, to what was the first automated elections in our history. Indeed we were left to fend for our own selves – from creating systems on verifying voters’ list to providing means by which manual voting and electronic counting could perhaps proceed – if only to save the nation from discord and strife that could have followed the elections. Where the Comelec and Smartmatic failed in extending adequate voters’ education and poll watch training to millions of voters, it is the citizens watchdogs, various groups from the Church, schools, NGOs, and other institutions – including those that the Comelec-Smartmatic and CAC unabashedly called “doomsayers” and AES “critics” – that filled this void.

CenPEG is alarmed that the Comelec and Smartmatic have tolerated a flawed process to fester, and is dismayed that these entities have appropriated today’s calmness and sobriety that the Filipino people by their own, individually and collectively, embraced and nurtured. Indeed victory has many parents but decency dictates that the Comelec and Smartmatic cease from patting their backs in congratulatory mode, for they did less than what was expected of them to make the automated election system work.

The election results may have been “fast,” to cite Comelec and Smartmatic, but this claim should not gloss over the fact that over and above the poll outcome is the overarching need to establish the integrity of such results and to determine whether automation did promote democracy and address the systemic problem of fraud.

CenPEG’s monitoring of the May 10 elections through reports from its field researchers, poll watchers, and other reliable sources reveal a significant number of incidents all over the country on the May 10 automated elections involving:

  1. Malfunctioning, shutting down, and even destruction of PCOS machines, compact flash (CF) cards unable to function, paper jams, and power outages in many areas;
  2. Failure of transmission from the clustered precincts, forcing BEIs to bring the CF cards or even PCOS machines to the municipal canvassing centers (manual transmission). We have received reports from May 10-15 of failures of transmission from many municipalities and provinces; a number of clustered precincts resorted to manual count due to PCOS and CF card failures;
  3. Delayed canvassing and random manual audits (RMAs) in many areas with the results of completed RMAs remaining undisclosed

Aggravated by inefficient voting procedures enforced by Comelec and the lack of training given to BEI personnel, these technical glitches, power outages, and widespread transmission failures resulted in the disenfranchisement of many voters during the election. CenPEG estimates the actual number of voters at 35.3 million or 70.9 percent of the 50.7 million registered voters, and leaving a big 15% percent unable to vote or disenfranchised. The number of disenfranchised voters could be bigger because of a significant number of rejected ballots. The poor voting management procedures, technical breakdowns, transmission failures, delayed canvassing and RMAs were vulnerable to the tampering of the election results – an independent probe of which has been started by CenPEG.

In many rural areas nationwide, CenPEG’s field reports reveal Comelec’s failure to prevent soldiers and police personnel from intruding into voting centers in violation of election laws to position security forces outside the 50-meter radius of the polling place.

Even before the holding of the May 10 election, the automated election system (AES) was already stripped of the legal processes, safeguards, and minimum industry standards as mandated by the election law and Comelec’s ToR. Urgent proposals and recommendations raised by CenPEG, the AES Watch, and other citizens watchdogs for a source code review, the enabling of voters verifiability feature, digital signature and private keys to be generated solely by the BEIs, adequate and timely voters education and BEI training, the holding of real mock elections, and accurate field tests remained unheeded up until the final stretch of election preparations. As mandated by law, all these were absolutely necessary in order to establish the integrity of the AES and the election results.

Meantime, there are issues and concerns that Comelec should answer to test its claim of “success” and “celebration of democracy” of the May 10 election. We ask Comelec’s cooperation in providing us data and information in the spirit of fully disclosing or explaining the following:

  1. Failure to fully cleanse the voters’ registration lists, with many legitimate voters de-listed from their polling precincts and many others unable to vote;
  2. The actual number of PCOS machines that successfully transmitted and how “transmissions” were done from polling centers with many machines unable to transmit or failed to transmit altogether;
  3. The magnitude of PCOS breakdowns, malfunctioning CF cards, and other technical problems;
  4. The real reasons for the malfunctioning of the CF cards in the May 3 final testing and sealing (FTS) and whether the new CF cards were correctly reconfigured. How many of the reconfigured CF cards reached their destinations before election and how many did not? The problem arising from incorrectly configured CF cards that Comelec discovered on May 3 and the haste and limited material time for the Smartmatic to re-do the process would contribute to the erroneous counting of votes.
  5. Whether a final FTS was done prior to the election and, if so, how many of the 76,340 clustered precincts were able to conduct the FTS and what is the percentage of success or accuracy. In relation to this, was the FTS in the clustered precincts witnessed by poll watchers and election watchdogs?
  6. Why the use of the P30M worth of UV scanners was not fully complied with and why the Comelec website reveals only summarized election returns (ERs). The accuracy of the ERs cannot be verified unless the digitally-signed, consolidated returns from the clustered precincts are transparent. on the website.
  7. Why did Comelec Chairman Jose Melo start reading before the media the “first transmitted results” at 6:30 p.m. May 10 even if the polls were to be closed at 7 p.m.? Comelec should explain the discrepancy in the “first transmitted results” from Western Samar and Zamboanga Sibugay when the first transmissions were officially registered from a different province at 7:30 p.m.? Western Samar was able to transmit results only on May 14.
  8. Moreover, was it simple oversight, or just a case of incompetence, or was there an evil scheme to rig election results in the case of the highly-irregular storage of 67 PCOS machines in Antipolo and the reported Cagayan de Oro election returns (ER) junk shop discovery?
  9. Why were CF cards – vital pieces of evidence– ordered destroyed in the face of the May 3 CF card disaster?
  10. And many other questions that beg to be answered including the 153,902,003 number of voters registered by Smartmatic machines at the national canvassing center!

Moreover, contrary to Comelec claims the automation system failed to prevent fraud of all types like the widespread incidence of vote-buying, election-related violence, campaign overspending, vilification schemes against progressive candidates, and other types of cheating. It failed to “promote democracy” owing to the big number of disenfranchised voters. It also failed to equalize the election playing field with many political dynasties and powers-that-be being retained in power from the presidency down to the LGUs. It would take longer to verify the accuracy and credibility of all the election results amid the failure of the system to provide transparency to the counting, canvassing, and consolidation of the results.

CenPEG is in the process of collating data to help each of us objectively and rationally assess the outcome of the recently-concluded elections. As social scientists, we cannot stand idly by to accept a verdict without substantiation, to allow our sense of vigilance to be lulled by the Comelec and Smartmatic’s empty “trust-the-machine” rhetoric.

An overriding task of researchers and analysts is to seek out facts. Well-researched findings should be able to provide the outcome of projects and programs, generate solutions, safeguards, and/or remedies to identified problems and vulnerabilities way ahead of implementation and, in the process, help support policy and law reform toward effective governance. THAT was the rationale behind CenPEG’s study on the 30 vulnerabilities and 30 safeguards of the Philippine AES. Research is not doomsaying, research is truth and fact finding. And a basic requirement to make any research meaningful is access to information and availability of documents.

CenPEG therefore asks the Comelec and Smartmatic to provide or at least make available to every interested voter, candidate or entity engaged in electoral advocacy, all documents – electronic and hardcopy – by which this assessment could be accomplished with reasonable accuracy and transparency. The state of elections is at severe and critical stake if we are to continue in this context of Governmental disarray and purposelessness, turmoil and incompetence. The only way to arrest this skid, nay, this systemic disorganization in our electoral system is to work here and now and impose accountability upon those who should be accountable.

In the tight race for the Vice Presidency, the anxious 10th to 12th spot fot the Senate, the party-list contests, the fiercely disputed local posts, the CenPEG certainly cannot say that electoral problems and issues are over and done with. We must reserve judgment until all parties have been asked and their questions answered, until judgment is due. We cannot afford another case of impunity in this country for we have already too many to count. As an immediate remedy, there should be an immediate probe into the highly irregular destruction of CF cards and questionable actions related to the handling of the PCOS machines and election procedures all over the country.

As part of policy reform, CenPEG calls for the formation of an independent, non-partisan, and impartial citizens’ body to review and assess the conduct of the May 10, 2010 automated elections, including the processes and procedures taken and inquiry into BUDGET USE in preparing for the election and thereafter. The Joint Congressional Oversight Committee under a new administration must also act now to exercise its statutory mandate to require the Comelec and Smartmatic to reveal all information or data in whatever form so that the citizens’ body could very well perform its intended duties. This independent initiative is imperative not only to clear the air with regard to the conduct of the recent elections but to conclude once and for all whether the Smartmatic-propelled automation as claimed by Comelec promoted fair, transparent and credible May 10, 2010 election.

Video recording of press conference by the Peoples’ International Observers Mission on the conduct of the 2010 elections

Assessment of the May 10 Elections by Gus Lagman

Several of my friends asked me what my assessment was about the conduct of the May 10, 2010 elections. I have always answered thus:

I am very happy that Manila started receiving the data not long after the polls closed and that the result of the presidential elections was resolved early. That was truly amazing and almost unbelievable!

Nonetheless, I still maintain my original position that the technology chosen by the Comelec had a high probability of failure and that, because counting was not public, it would be easy to automate wholesale cheating. That neither seemed to have happened in the last elections does not mean that these statements are no longer true.

This is the reason why when asked during a TV talk show midnight of election day if I were willing to “eat my words”, I unhesitatingly said, “No, of course not!”

Why didn’t it fail? First, the teachers, who were the members of the Boards of Election Inspectors (BEI), performed extremely well. Theirs was a Herculean task, fraught with all kinds of problems, yet they delivered. We truly must salute them. Second, the voters were determined to make the system work. They so wanted their voices to be heard, their votes to be counted, that they stayed on despite the very long queues at the precincts. I definitely subscribe to Conrad de Quiros’ interpretation of this current political situation as being an EDSA masquerading as an election. And third, a large logistics company with a wide geographic coverage came in the last minute, to help deliver more than 50% of the PCOS machines and later, the re-configured CF cards.

And what about wholesale cheating, did it happen? No doubt it could have happened. What saved the day for us was the large margin of Noynoy Aquino in the surveys. There was no way the public would have accepted contrary results. If only for this, there’s reason to keep running those surveys. Without them, any result would have to be accepted, no matter how disappointing, for there wouldn’t be any basis for contradicting it and launching protest action. (Even Cory Aquino needed a basis for claiming victory during the snap elections. That was the Namfrel count.)

An incontrovertible proof that wholesale cheating could have happened and that it’s far easier to launch such, is the fiasco that happened on May 3, 2010. Smartmatic had to replace all the CF cards because they were not counting the votes correctly. (Meaning ALL 76,300 machines were corrupted.) This would not have been discovered had those 350 (according to some reports) PCOS machines not been tested on that day. An intentionally embedded “cheating program” would have been more difficult to detect as it could “hide” itself during testing.

While there are some people who have congratulated the Comelec and Smartmatic, I definitely will not do so. In fact, I would demand that they explain to the Filipino people the following:

  1. Why didn’t the Comelec make the source code “immediately” available to political parties and groups, as R.A. 9369 mandates? Why did they pay Systest Labs P72 million and give them more than four months to review the code, yet would only give the local experts, who were going to do the review for free, only three months? And why all the restrictions on the said review? It’s no wonder the local IT experts “walked away” from the effort.
  2. The Systest Labs report was submitted to the Comelec in February. Why wasn’t the report released to the public soon after? The unofficial copy that many somehow received showed many shortcomings in the Smartmatic system that should have prevented its being certified.
  3. Why did Comelec allow Smartmatic to generate all the BEI electronic signatures without giving the teachers an option to change them? This gave Smartmatic ready access to all the PCOS machines, even from a remote area.
  4. Why weren’t the PCOS and CF cards tested much earlier? Major errors that threaten the success and credibility of elections should not happen ONE WEEK before elections. How sure are we that all CF cards were replaced? Was the reconfiguration of the cards done in the presence of qualified watchers?
  5. What did Comelec/Smartmatic do with the erroneous CF cards? They have evidential value and should be subjected to forensic review.
  6. Why did the Comelec canvass the president and vice-president results? According to our Constitution, only Congress can perform that function, even as private entities are allowed to do unofficial counts. All the commissioners are lawyers and should know about this specific provision. They were more than halfway done when they realized this and that was the only time they stopped.
  7. The random manual audit was supposed to have started immediately after the precinct count. How come the results have yet to be released one week after the elections?
  8. The voter turn-out, according to the Comelec, was around 75%. That’s 5-10% short of expectations. This translates to 2.5 to 5 million voters who, because of inefficient precinct clustering, might have been disenfranchised. That’s way too high!
  9. The Comelec said that PCOS would prevent traditional ways of cheating, like ballot box switching. But there are a lot of talks now that there might have been CF card switching, something that’s obviously much easier to do, considering its size.
  10. In a meeting a few weeks before the elections, Commissioner Larrazabal mentioned that most of the P4.1 billion, that is the difference between the approved budget of P11.3 billion and Smartmatic’s quote of P7.2 billion, have likewise been spent. Comelec should make these expenses public. Was it a case of awarding a contract to a lowest bidder, only to grant additional contracts to that same bidder later?

No, I’m not about to exonerate the Comelec and Smartmatic of wrongdoing. As a friend said, “flying a plane with technical issues and landing it safely, does not make the pilot or the airline free from liability.” And they certainly owe the Filipino people an explanation to the above questions.

We were plain lucky. The election results were generally credible … despite the Comelec! But it was a costly system — not only in terms of money (P7.2 billion), but also in terms of voting secrecy, which was sacrificed, and public counting, which was ignored.

Gus Lagman is a convenor of the Movement for Good Governance, lead convenor of TransparentElections.Org. Ph, former president of Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP), former president of Philippine Computer Society (CSP), and former Technology Chief of NAMFREL.

How trustworthy is the random manual audit (RMA)?

YouthVotePhilippines: With the technical glitches in yesterday’s first automated polls, the random manual audit (RMA) becomes more crucial in ensuring the credibility of election results.

The Commission on Elections has released Resolution 8837 on the conduct of the RMA after rejecting calls from various groups to conduct a parallel manual count last April 29.

In particular, while the resolution provides for the composition and duties of the RMA team (RMAT) and the general instructions of conducting the audit, the acceptable margin of variance between the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) count and the audit count remains uncertain.

“It’s crucial that we first determine what’s the acceptable tolerance for error between the automated and manual counts, before we conduct any form of audit,” said Jaime Garchitorena, YouthVotePhilippines information technology strategist.

“What if there is a variance but it’s not that significant to the results? We can’t decide which variance to accept after the fact. We should have clear rules on that even before voting begins,” he said.

Issue still about trust

Based on the proposal of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the RMA will be done immediately upon the close of elections in five clustered precincts for each of the 229 congressional districts.

RMATs will be deployed in polling precincts randomly selected using a tambiolo with numbered balls. The audit will be conducted in 1,145 clustered precincts nationwide once the PCOS machines have been shut down.

The positions that will be manually counted for the audit include the president, vice president, district representative, governor and mayor.

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), however, earlier recommended that the RMA cover 5 percent of all PCOS machines per congressional district instead of just five clustered precincts. Originally, Comelec only planned for an audit of one machine per district.

It also suggested that “the audit process should include a review of the hash codes of the PCOS machines for comparison with source codes stored in Bangko Sentral (Central Bank).”

Despite Comelec’s non-accreditation, Namfrel still plans to conduct its own parallel count to ensure credible elections. It said in a statement, “Both the manual and automated counts should be made available immediately to the public for transparency purposes.”

In his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last February, Social Weather Stations president Mahar Mangahas wrote that former ambassador Henrietta de Villa of PPCRV had approached him to become a guest consultant, pro bono, in the RMA technical working group which met in November 2009.

Mangahas said the RMA process will have scientific meaning only if its individual audits are completely trustworthy.

“The question of how many PCOS machines to audit cannot even be addressed by statistical principles unless integrity is assured for each and every audit,” he said.

“If trust is the issue then it cuts both ways. To be objective about it, if you don’t trust the Comelec the same skepticism should apply to groups conducting the audit,” Garchitorena said.

“In more concrete terms, any person who offers to handle my ballot physically should be someone I trust completely,” he added.

To remove any suspicion of vested interest, Garchitorena suggested in a public call last month that all proponents of any manual count or audit be named and made to promise to decline any offer to sit in the next government at least for the next three years.

“Even the auditors should be kept in check,” he said. “How would it look if an auditor was found to have an unexplained sum of money in his account after proclaiming a winner in a controversial local election? In something as critical as this, it’s important to their credibility that they will not personally benefit from the activity.”

Cheating the audit improbable

Some groups and local candidates have expressed fears that excess ballots may be used for cheating the audit, but Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said there is “no opportunity to insert unused ballots” into the machine.

The number of ballots per clustered precinct matches the number of voters in the precinct’s list.

“Kasama sa procedure natin ay ina-announce ng BEI (Board of Election Inspectors) na meron syang unused ballots, kasi gugupitin nya yun pagkatapos (It’s part of the procedure for the BEI to announce that there are unused ballots, because they will cut it in half after the voting period ends),” he said.

Audit rules state that in case the number of ballots that will be subjected to the audit exceeds the number of votes found in the Minutes of Voting and Counting certified by the BEI, the resolution requires for an investigation for “any possible reasons” of the discrepancy, such as spoiled or rejected ballots.

But in the event that no probable reason is identified, “all the ballots shall be returned in the ballot box and thoroughly mixed by the (Board of Election Inspectors) Chairman.” The BEI chair will then “randomly take out from the ballot box the number of ballots equal to the excess and place them in the RMA envelopes for excess ballots.”

“Without a clear acceptable level of variance, a situation where this happens can cause commotion if because of the random pick of ballots to be counted, the audit count differs by some margin with the PCOS count,” Garchitorena said.

Proclamation not affected by audit

With Comelec’s rejection of a parallel manual count, Namfrel has suggested for an audit of votes before the results are transmitted. Several groups have also expressed opposition to proclaiming candidates as winners, especially in local posts, before a manual tally confirms the PCOS count.

Jimenez, however, said while the audit results will not affect proclamation, they can be used as grounds to file an election protest. “Pwedeng gamitin yun bilang grounds to challenge proclamation (Audit results can be used as grounds to challenge proclamation),” he said. “Kasi malinaw naman, meron na kagad colorable doubt, na mukha talagang may nangyaring mali (Because then it would be clear that something went wrong and that would cause doubt).”

“But of course that will trigger yung sinasabi nating (what we call) discovery of root causes,” he said.

Comelec has been firm that results of the audit should not hinder the proclamation of winning candidates based on the PCOS count.

Garchitorena agreed with proclaiming without the audit results. He said that if audit or manual count results are given much weight without a clear provision on an acceptable discrepancy when compared to the PCOS count, “we’re setting up a no proclamation scenario.”

“Especially since no one is really pushing for clarifications on the constitutional engine that searches for a leader in the absence of duly elected officials or electoral power vacuum,” he said.

Garchitorena, however, cautioned the Comelec from comparing the ease of using the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) with the automated election system (AES) to illustrate its reliability.

“ATM machines still fail today. The key to accepting the ATM was the stability and trust in the banks which operate the machines,” he said. “People know that their money is safe and that if there is a discrepancy in their receipt and what they got, they can complain.”

Instead of saying the machine will run perfectly, Garchitorena said the Comelec should explain that the improvement of the AES comes with the constant use and adjustment of the PCOS machines, including successful testing.

Press Release: Private Sector Leaders Call for Comelec Action

A multisectoral group of private sector leaders assembled today at the 24-hour prayer vigil and fasting AKKAPAKA site at Plaza Roma, Intramuros to ask for Comelec action to help improve the coming elections’ credibility.

Mano Alcuaz of the Management Association of the Philippines read the joint statement calling for a manual count signed by the Alyansa Agrikultura, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club and the Philippine Bar Association. He explained the need for this new move because of the May 3 failure of the PCOS machines and the recall of the 76,300 compact flash (CF) cards just a few days before elections.

Gus Lagman, TransparentElections.org chair, argued that the 100% manual count can still be done. He said that the voting summary forms can be printed in one day. He added that Bert Lina of Air 21 has offered to deliver the forms to all municipalities within one a half days free of charge. Where the forms are not delivered, the law allows the Board of Election Inspectors to make their own emergency forms, provided they sign the vote submissions. However, if Comelec refuses to do the total manual count, then the planned random manual audit must increase its sample size from 1.5% to at least 21% to make the audit credible.

Simeon Marcelo, Philippine Bar Council President, gave the legal basis for a 100% precinct count and audit for five identified elective positions, saying this would take only an extra three hours to conduct per precinct. He identified the penalties for electoral fraud and said he would personally file charges in court against any Comelec official guilty of this.

Ernesto Ordonez, Alyansa Agrikultlura chair, talked of the danger of the canvassing center posting only the center vote total (Certificate of Canvass-COC) and not the individual precinct counts (Statement of Votes-SOV) which make up the totals. The transparency to the public needed for both the COC and SOV through projectors or other means was agreed upon after a 5-hour dialogue with Comelec officials last April 16. But so far, this has not yet been included in the Comelec’s General Instructions (G.I.’s) for canvassing centers. If this is not done immediately, the resulting lack of transparency is a sure formula for dagdag-bawas.

Leaders from the mutisectoral group then proceeded to Comelec Chair Jose Melo’s office to present their recommendations for Comelec’s immediate action.