Election Watchdog Urges Voters To Be Vigilant Of Election Fraud

MANILA – The election watchdog Kontra Daya said the people should brace themselves to protect their votes with “organized vigilance,” as they expect more of the same massElectionWatchDogive cheating with the automated elections come May 9.

“We expect the fraud that will happen, because Comelec allows it and made it even easier to do,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, Kontra Daya convenor and chairperson of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham). Kontra Daya advised voters to monitor their polling precincts for irregularities, and report these to Kontra Daya, through text message, social media, and email.

Tapang blamed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for its “wilful neglect,” as it failed to address issues in the automated election system (AES), in violation of the Automated Election Law.

“The integrity of the poll exercise on May 9 has been left by the Comelec to wishful thinking,” said Tapang. “It has failed to address vulnerabilities that pose great danger to the security and accuracy of the counting of our votes. It has opened avenues for cheating and disenfranchisement, and has eroded even further the credibility of the upcoming polls,” he said at a press conference held today, May 3.

Vote manipulation can be done “by anyone with interests in the elections,” mainly, local and national candidates with the machinery, Tapang said. “Comelec made it easy for them to cheat, but very opaque to us.”

Tapang said that Comelec has virtually allowed the foreign company, Smartmatic to run the elections, in spite of its spotted reputation of running fraudulent polls in other countries, and in violation of the Constitution.

“(Comelec) has bent backwards to accommodate what Smartmatic wants, rather than enforcing what should have been done for a credible automated election system,” Tapang said.

With “Comelec’s vulnerable automation system,” Kontra Daya said the May 9 elections will reflect the same rule of “guns, goons and gold.”

‘Use social media

Kontra Daya convenors and leaders from various progressive groups said they will mobilize their membership to closely monitor, document and report anomalies. The reports will be verified, processed and mapped out at Kontra Daya’s monitoring center at the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) along EDSA near Quezon Avenue from May 8 to 10.

“We can counter Comelec’s wilful neglect with organized vigilance,” Tapang said. He said Comelec will not be so complacent if there is strong public vigilance in the elections.

“We ask the people to prepare to go out into the streets to voice out our collective disgust. Elections are supposed to reflect the voice of the people, not the voice of those in power,” said Prof. Danny Arao of the College of Mass Communications in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado of blogwatch.ph advised the public to use their mobile phones and social media to quickly report irregularities in the conduct of the election.

“We will use the power of social media. Anyone with a cellphone can report and monitor what’s happening,” she said.

Five points

Kontra Daya raised five points which, they said, indicate that the possibility of a clean and honest elections “is very low.” The group had submitted the first four points to Comelec in two complaints in March and April, but the poll body has yet to reply.

  1. The Comelec failed to get a certification for the AES from an independent technical evaluation committee (TEC). “It has not given a satisfactory source code review,” Tapang said. He added that 13 of the 130 vote counting machines (VCM) – or 10 percent — in the overseas absentee voting have malfunctioned, giving a worrisome preview into what might happen on May 9.
  2. The digital signing feature of the VCM was disabled, thus election returns that will be sent for canvassing will not be authenticated, as required by law.
  3. “We will have no assurance that the numbers being tallied are correct and reflective of the actual vote,” Tapang said.
  4. Comelec itself targeted only 90 percent of data transmission for the 92,509 polling precincts in the country, due to poor or even lack of signal and geography. In cases of failure in transmission, the memory card from the precinct will be physically delivered to the canvassing center. This “opens up to scenarios of modern-day ballot box snatching,” Tapang said, as memory cards can be stolen in place of ballot boxes.
  5.  Comelec amended its own rules, to allow replacement of ballots, the use of nicknames of presidential and vice presidential candidates, and ruling out frivolous objections. The replacement of ballots was based on the assumption that there will not be a 100 percent voter turnout, and there will be extra ballots. This can lead to voter disenfranchisement if a precinct runs out of ballots, Tapang said.
  6. The Comelec “has not satisfactorily addressed” the March 27 hacking of its website, which led to a breach of private information of 55 million voters. “If Comelec cannot protect our data, how can it protect the election on May 9?” Tapang said.

Mac Yanto of the Computer Professionals Union (CPU) noted that Comelec also did not hold an “end-to-end” testing of the VCM, from voting to the transmission of tallied votes. Instead, it held mock elections in February, and tested data transmission in April.

“We did not see the whole process, Comelec did not want to show it,” Yanto said. (bulatlat.com)

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