By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:43:00 05/22/2010
MANILA, Philippines—The May 10 elections may have been the fastest in Philippine history, with unofficial results known in less than a week, but for some politicians and watchdogs, it is also the source of the most complicated complaints.
Poll watchers and losing politicians used blame guns, goons, gold and biased election workers for their defeat.
It was a straightforward operation: goons are hired by local parties to instill fear among voters and election workers to influence the results.
Now, as seen in the House of Representatives hearing on the automated elections, losing candidates point an accusing finger at new culprits: the voting machines and compact flash cards.
And none were the wiser on how these gadgets were used to change the results.
Ramon Casiple, a member of the Commission on Elections’ Advisory Council said it was understandable that the automated elections system (AES) has become an object of suspicion, despite its relative success.
Losing candidates do not accept defeat easily since they have spent so much money in the elections, he said.
““There is also the untried and new AES which took all of us into uncharted waters. Again, there is the constant factor of ill-motivated attacks by vested interest groups who were frustrated in their schemes by the AES,” he added.
“An additional factor is the excruciatingly slow reporting of the last 10 percent of the votes – fanning cheating anxieties reminiscent of the manual system,” Casiple said.
One of the recent complaints from poll watchdogs focused on the alleged irregularities in the province of Biliran.
The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting in the province of Biliran has written to the Commission on Elections decrying the alleged questionable activities involving election workers and voting machines.
In their letter to Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, members of PPCRV Biliran and concerned citizens said they documented instances of voter disenfranchisement, harassment of watchers, irregularities in the conduct of the Board of Election Inspectors, and malfunctioning and missing voting machines.
Fr. Marvyn Maceda, the PPCRV local coordinator, in a report said: “We strongly recommend that these allegations of massive cheating not only in the province of Biliran but also in other places, be looked into by the Comelec, especially if these allegations involved the PCOS machines and memory cards: the very hearts of our automated elections.”
The PPCRV, the Comelec’s accredited citizen’s arm in the last elections, urged the poll body “to conduct immediate recount of our votes both valid and invalid in each of the eight municipalities throughout the Province of Biliran.”
The proclamation of the winning candidates should be annulled and the results set aside, they said.
They also asked the poll body to explain the one missing Precinct Count Optical Scan machine that was supposed to be deployed in Tacloban City as well as two voting machines that were intercepted in Naval, Biliran on May 14.
The machines, they told the Comelec, was not part of the 177 PCOS, which included 11 spare machines, assigned to the province.
The PPCRV in Biliran was not the first to raise suspicion over the machines.
In Isabela, Basilan, PPCRV workers there questioned the 20 PCOS machines found in a warehouse last May 11.
The machines contained what appeared to be transmission receipts that indicated that election results were sent to various servers on March 10, two months before the elections.
Aside from PPCRV, several politicians who lost in the elections have asked the Comelec to look into the allegations that the automated election system was subverted.
Quezon City losing mayoral candidates Michael Defensor and Annie Susano said they could not believe that they got zero votes in some precincts, despite their being well-known candidates. Defensor and Susano lost to Vice-Mayor Herbert Bautista.
Erwin Genuino, who ran for Makati mayor a second time and lost yet again, also claimed to have been cheated. North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, who has alleged that cheating in his province was somehow done through the precinct count optical scan machines, filed an electoral protest with the Comelec last Friday.
Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles, who lost to Sarah Duterte in the battle to become Davao City mayor, also questioned the credibility of the elections.