Comelec: No glitches, sign of poll cheating

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes on Tuesday said isolated glitches in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the May 13 elections were proof that there was no widespread cheating. “If there were no glitches, that’s a sign of cheating,” Brillantes said. “There will be glitches, but these will be very few and very isolated. One percent would already be very high.” He added that minor glitches that have showed up in test runs include ballots being rejected or timer failures.
Ready for May 13. Members of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting started installing their computers and monitors at the Pope Pius Center in Manila on Tuesday to monitor the mid-term elections. Danny Pata
“These are just small glitches. A major glitch would affect the results,” he said. Brillantes acknowledged that as an election lawyer in the 2010 elections, he had filed 29 protests before the commission involving problems with the same PCOS machines, but said nothing came of those complaints. “I didn’t understand it then, and I didn’t believe in the system at the time,” he added. Brillantes also described the PCOS as “a perfect machine” that was “100 percent accurate” compared to a manual count that was prone to human error. The poll chief’s statements came after some poll watchdog groups questioned the credibility and accuracy of the vote-counting machines, following problems that surfaced during test runs in mock elections in Pasay City and Quezon City. Other critics also said the Comelec failed to release the source code or program instructions for the machines early enough, so that these could be reviewed by all parties to ensure they were aboveboard. After dismissing the need to release the source code, Brillantes on Monday said the programs would be available for review with barely a week to go before the elections. Election watchdog Automated Election System (AES) Watch slammed the Comelec for the last-minute disclosure. “The last-minute disclosure of the source code even if true, will not extricate Comelec and Smartmatic from legal liability,” said Bobby Tuazon, an official of the group. “They should have revealed the source code last year when Comelec decided to re-use the unreliable Smartmatic-marketed technology to allow political parties and other interested groups to conduct an independent review of the software program as a matter of right.” The fact that the supposed source code was being released just less than a week before the elections and that the review would have to wait until after the May 13 polls constitutes a violation of the election law, Tuazon added. “Is this a piece of candy to be given out just to appease the ‘noisy critics’ who persistently demanded the release of the source code as a vital security safeguard to ensure proper operations of the PCOS program?” Tuazon asked. AES Watch also challenged Brillantes to show that the source code mentioned was the same one loaded in some 78,000 PCOS machines now deployed all over the country. Militant lawmakers urged the Comelec to prepare for the worst, saying the integrity of the mid-term elections was put into question by reports of irregularities in the use of the PCOS machines. Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus and members of the poll watch network Babae! trooped to the Comelec offices in Intramuros, Manila, to express their apprehensions. “The irregularities monitored during the final testing and sealing of PCOS and the lack of a source code review by local groups before the actual conduct of the elections puts the credibility of Monday’s elections under a cloud of doubt. Dominion’s consent to finally release the source code came too late and does little to appease voters’ and watchdogs’ apprehension,” Ilagan said, referring to the software company that developed the program instructions used by the PCOS machines. De Jesus said the Comelec should be prepared to conduct a manual count, a possibility Brillantes has already ruled out. Ilagan also cited as a case in the Kabacan Elementary School in Davao, where the PCOS count was one vote short for each senator and councilor, when compared to the manual count. In Datu Piang Elementary School, the serial numbers of the PCOS machines did not match the batteries that were used, she said. Another machine failed altogether in the Buhangin Central Elementary School, she said. The Kontra Daya poll watchdog also reported that the machines failed the memory card diagnostic test in most precincts. “Voter vigilance is imperative,” Ilagan said. “More than fast elections, we need credible elections.” A militant youth group Anakbayan also questioned the credibility of the PCOS machines, saying they were vulnerable to tampering and manipulation by the administration to give President Aquino the 12-0 sweep in the senatorial races that he wanted. At least 10,000 policemen will be on poll duty Monday in Metro Manila, where they will be fielded near voting precincts, while 10,000 more would ensure peace and order in the capital. “A total of 20,000 policemen will be on full alert during and after the election period,” said Director Leonardo Espina of the National Capital Region Police Office. Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista reminded entertainment establishments to observe the five-day election period ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages that starts midnight May 9. The May 13 midterm elections will see the elections of 12 new senators, 229 district members of the House of Representatives, 80 provincial governors, 80 provincial vice governors, and 766 members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial legislature. In the local elections, there will be 138 city mayors, 138 city vice mayors, 1,532 members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod or city councils, 1,496 municipal mayors, 1,496 municipal vice mayors, and 11,972 members of the Sangguniang Bayan or municipal councils. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, there will be one regional governor, one regional vice governor, and 24 regional assemblymen. Party-list representatives will also be elected. In total, there will be 18,022 national and local positions to be decided. With Maricel V. Cruz, Ferdinand Fabella, Gigi Munoz David and Rio N. Araja
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