Just my opinion
By Raïssa Robles
The Commission on Elections has just proclaimed the 12 winning senators in a most unusual way – without ranking them and without giving the number of votes each won.
It’s a first in Senate electoral history. And one intended, it seems, to stop the cheating.
Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban branded Comelec’s action as “baseless and premature”.
Panganiban, in his opinion column Saturday at the Philippine Daily Inquirer said:
“No one was chasing the Comelec, why the indecent haste? Why rush to proclaim without legal or factual basis? Why not wait for two days, just two days, and then proclaim all 12 legally and unquestionably?”
My guess – based on my experience covering nine national and local elections starting 1986 – is that the Comelec was trying to head off cheating that would materially affect results of the 2013 senatorial elections. Especially the rankings and the winners for the 10th, 11th and 12th slots.
Politicians have told me often enough that it’s very difficult to cheat in the local elections because the guarding of votes there is mano-a-mano:Watchers of rival camps are present in all the precincts watching every move the Comelec personnel and the rival camp make.
The problem has always been guarding the integrity of the results for national positions:
The presidential and vice-presidential race
The senatorial race
And ironically enough, the partylist race because the votes here are cast nationwide.
While we have indeed automated our elections at the precinct level, the method of verifying the authenticity of votes cast; verifying the number of votes cast; and counting the votes is still an analog one and dates back to the 1940s.
Namfrel (The National Movement for Free Elections) came out with a very good diagram of the process and I am reposting it below.
Let’s just run through the election process. On election day, millions of Filipinos went to polling places – usually located in school rooms. Each classroom had a PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scanner).
Altogether, Comelec scattered throughout the country 78,166 PCOS machines. Each schoolroom with a PCOS machine is what Comelec calls a “Clustered Precinct”.
All in all, there were:
78,166 Clustered Precincts located in
1,640 cities and towns mostly located in
80 provinces (because some cities like those comprising Metro Manila) are not part of any province.
After the voting was over on May 13, 2013, each of the 78,166 Clustered Precincts printed an Election Return (ER). The ER totaled the votes for each of the candidates.
Each Election Return (ER) result was transmitted twice to two different locations. One ER was transmitted to the town or city board of canvassers. The same ER was also transmitted to what is called the “Transparency Server” of Comelec.
In turn, the “Transparency Server” transmitted the same ER results to FIVE DIFFERENT LOCATIONS:
A “Backup Server” (also Comelec controlled)
A Citizens Arm (in this case the PPCRV)
The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (for media)
The Liberal Party Headquarters
And the UNA Headquarters
The Comelec’s “Backup Server” also transmitted the same ERs to Namfrel.
All these fast transmissions, however, are not the “official results”.
Our Election Code only recognizes as “official results” those results that undergo the following four-step process:
First, the PCOS machine has to produce an ER.
Second, the ER has to pass through and be approved by the city or municipal board of canvass.
Third, the city or municipal board of canvass then verifies and adds up the total number of votes. The board then produces a “Certificate of Canvass”
Fourth, this “Certificate of Canvass” is then transmitted electronically to the Provincial Board of Canvassers.
There are 80 Provincial Board of Canvassers in all. Each one in turn prepares a Certificate of Canvass.
In addition, 26 Chartered and Highly Urbanized Cities also prepare their own Certificates of Canvass
In addition, ONE Certificate of Canvass is prepared to summarize the local absentee votes for senatorial and party list elections
In addition, 197 separate CoCs are prepared to summarize the Overseas Absentee Votes from 197 separate countries.
For senators to be proclaimed winners, the National Board of Canvassers located in Comelec’s main Manila office has to receive the 304 CoCs – from the provinces, from highly urbanized cities and from absentee voting locally and overseas.
In elections where votes are gathered nationwide, this is the rule that has always been followed: ALL election returns from a particular town or city in a province have to be all accounted for – 100% – before a Certificate of Canvass from that province can be produced and then sent on to the national board of canvassers in Manila.
Here is Namfrel’s illustration of the poll automation process:
This is not what happened in the May 2013 elections. Comelec did not wait for the national board of canvassers to complete most of its job. Instead, the Comelec commissioners relied on what they called “group canvass reports” which is nowhere to be found in our Poll Automation Law.
However, here is the interesting thing about Republic Act 9369 or the Poll Automation Law.
It does not require Comelec to give the proclaimed senators any ranking or to disclose the number of votes each one got.
Section 22 of RA 9369 merely states:
SEC. 22. Section 23 of Republic Act No. 8436 is hereby amended to read as follows:
“SEC. 27. National Board of Canvassers for Senators and Party-List Representatives. – The chairman and members of the Commission on Election sitting en banc, shall compose the national board of canvassers for senators and party-list representatives. It shall canvass the results by consolidating the certificates of canvass electronically transmitted. Thereafter, the national board shall proclaim the winning candidates for senators and party-list representatives.”
Why did Comelec proclaim senators piecemeal?
Because, as we all saw, there were security breaches in the poll automation process.
As Namfrel noted: Within 48 hours the the process had slowed down, with 23,039 ERs still waiting to be transmitted. That translated to 29.47% of ALL ERs not transmitted.
Based on figures presented in a GMA News report, when all 12 senators were proclaimed winners, 59,665 ERs had come in or a total of 76.33% of all Election Returns. This means 23.67% of ERs had not come in yet.
What had happened to these ERs?
Namfrel listed the major breaches in the poll automation process:
A highly reliable source, quite familiar with the election process, told me that one way of cheating in an automation process seems to be to corrupt the CF Card so that a fresh CF Card would have to be placed. “Theoretically, with a new CF card, you could feed new ballots into the PCOS,” the source said.
Another way is to infiltrate the process – for instance, in the delivery of the ballots or by planting technical personnel.
Still another is to delay the process – “no one transmits” the ERs – as what happened in certain places, my source pointed out.
Poll automation has opened up new and old ways of cheating, especially for national positions.
As my hubby Alan pointed out, Filipinos are very good in finding holes in secure systems.
Can Comelec commissioners be punished for what they did?
Sure they can, but only through impeachment.
Would Congress – especially the 12 newly-proclaimed senators – take part in such an impeachment? By doing so, they would call their very election into question.
What needs to be done is to follow the random manual audit closely and to amend the poll automation law in order to speed up and secure the process further.
I also believe it is high time we develop our own poll automation system down to the source code. We can test it in the coming barangay elections. I don’t see why we can’t do it in time for 2016. Smartmatic is just too problematic.
If I am Comelec Chairman Brillantes:
I will use the intelligence fund to pay assets to verify an intelligence report that Lagman and Monsod are conspiring to discredit the Comelec at any cost. I will also verify the report that Lagman and Monsod are in cahoots with GMA. So that I have to purchase costly information from the suspected syndicate’s insiders. I may also have to utilize costly surveillance experts and devices. Further, I will use the intelligence fund to help the family of my prospective witnesses before they are accepted in the govenment’s witness protection pogram.
Moreover, I will use the intelligence fund to maintain and protect my intelligence agents and assets. Food, transportation and shelter are not free items in our country. Finally, I will not return the 30M intelligence fund but instead justify it by saying that most, if not all, government offices have an internal intelligence and security units for the purpose of safeguarding their personnel and documents, and preserve the integrity of the office. Maybe, I will ask also for financial augmentation later.
Whatever happened to Brillantes’ earlier pronouncement that he was going to expose the people behind AES Watch (the group that’s been making a lot of noise about alleged irregularities in this election)? Are Lagman and Monsod part of this group?
I’ve had a look at the AES Watch website and all I found on the page ‘About AES Watch’ is this:
Automated Election System (AES) Watch is a broad coalition of IT experts, NGOs, faith-based organizations and members of the academe advocating transparent elections.
“Another AES Watch member, Atty Melchor Magdamo, a former Comelec legal consultant who blew the whistle on the anomalous secrecy folder deal in 2010, proposed that the “probe should begin with the question: Why were the major safeguards disregarded and removed –independent source code review, installation of the industry prescribed digital signatures, voter verification and the WORM (write-once-read many) CF cards up to the unconscionable expenses on the unbundled election paraphernalia, warehousing and the PCOS purchase itself.”
“There should be accountability here otherwise we will be sending a wrong signal to the people and the youth of this land that to err in Comelec is just human and to forgive is divine,” Magdamo mused.”
On May 25, 2013 blog watch wrote that AES Watch asked Brillantes: “Are you spying on us?”
This morning at radio station DZBB Brillantes answered:
Thanks for the heads up.
I missed this title “Are you spying on us?” to include in this ‘AES Watch‘ quotation.
Excerpts from the link provided by @Rene
Victin Luz says
Correctka dyan [email protected] ,, if ever somebody wanted to cheat last election ,using the old and new method in doing such distortion in conivance with the retired COMELEC Officials are the opposition whose senatorial candidates lagged behind the surveys at 9:3 in favor of Team PNOY….
Why should there be this INTELDELIGENCIA FUNDS for the COMELEC? –
“MANILA, Philippines — After questioning the motive of a former poll commissioner who exposed the matter, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. admitted late Thursday that President Benigno Aquino III had given him P30 million in intelligence funds, which he intends to return.”
Ka swerte naman nila…commissioners…what SPIES did they catch with such funds? Wala! Naka lusot ang mga spies pala!
Grrrr…people’s money! P30 MILLION yan! I just hope they ATE A LOT OF CHOLESTEROLS on it…!
– Brillantes admits getting P30-M intel funds from PNoy
– Comelec should not get intel funds, says ex-chief Monsod, as Brillantes assails Lagman’s motive
POINTED Questions to answer Commission on Elections, Commissioner Chair Sixto Brillantes
– PCOS’ window display of Hanky-panky DATA?
– Read also #24.1 baycas ‘Ateneo prof’s 60-30-10 poll results pattern gets Comelec’s attention’ May 21, 2013 6:31pm
CF Cards are not Modems
losers stop complaining, spend the rest of the campaign money to poor people in your areas, the country must move on….lagi na lang ganyan, yun mga talunan putak ng putak
Someone analyzed the alleged fraud…
Please go to Peter Julian Cayton’s Facebook page here:
(You may need to log-in to Facebook.)
Cayton’s comments may be read here:
A lot of people are nervous on this development.
I hope the Robles couple can get a copy from the ‘Transparency Server’ for ‘Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (for media)’. And share a link here for the CPM to look, study and analyze. o dili kaya sa pinoy wiki leak website (?)
Alan has written about this for many years, time for reckoning on how the COMELEC, political parties and their campaign manipulators do manage & handle the elections (national, provincial, city & barangay) for candidates (dynasty or not).
There’s a book that was published by Ateneo in 2007 that explains it more comprehensively than I could http://hotmanila.ph/Reviews/2007/book_howtowin090749.htm
Thanks for sharing your book review (dated APRIL 10 007, ooops).
As above, the info (database or electronic ERs or in what format they can supply) would support, affirm or justify the book’s contributors’ research, on tips, as guides for political enthusiasts and wannabees.
The writers’ sequel may perhaps have a better design for its next book cover.
In my opinion, the above info (ER data from all precincts) is a trove of information when intelligently deciphered.
Yeah I know about the date. I’m using a static CMS so it’s a bitch to correct, my plans to upgrade to dynamic CMS have been derailed by some unlikely developments. I thought I’d be Drupalized in time for the elections, but alas
Please read more here…
@baycas, sulat ng kumare mo oh.
Good Luck Richard Gordon
did you make all 12 marks allowed for senatoriables?
the average number of senator marks in at least one precinct is below 1 per voter, a curious phenomenon. overall, countrywide the average is just over 7 per voter, well below the 12 i was expecting to see.
seems 12 marks is way too many to make, fairer if just 1 next time.
Where is your reference info or which web link(s) you got this, “the average number of senator marks in at least one precinct is below 1 per voter, a curious phenomenon. overall, countrywide the average is just over 7 per voter, well below the 12 i was expecting to see.”?
i scraped the comelec data and calculated myself for a random precincts / levels. sadly webpage with statistics buried in middle, are not conducive to analysis.
as voters are allowed to select/mark upto 12 senatorial candidates. I reckoned that dividing total senator votes by actual voters would be interesting metric/signal to calculate that should tend to 12 and be available at all levels of count for comparison.
at national level, i could see that senator votes didn’t equal 12 times actual voters. in fact we see 238,828,920 senator votes/marks and 31,568,679 actual voters. dividing gives us 7.5653 marks per voter. so decided to drill down to better see the distribution.
when you open ‘senator’, you are presented with the breakdown of votes for each senator, and below the total number of voters who actually voted. i copied into excel, summed up all the senator votes, got (315), and divide by actual voters (427) to get a seemingly low 0.7377 marks made against the senatorial race by each voter.
IMHO, this raises a question about the equity of making multiple marks in the senatorial race. those who do not make 12 marks effectively have their vote diluted by those who do. it makes first past the post (only allow a single mark/vote) seem fairer.
without considering foul play, other thoughts…
are voters educated in the ballot, perhaps its too complex/time consuming?
perhaps many voters are not interested in senator race?
perhaps some pcos malfunctioned failing to count senator votes?
useful resources that others & comelec have put together…
2010 mirror of official results (same format as 2013)
official 2013 results…
Analysis and Data have been made available here – its in a more accessible format (sourced from rappler) also a handy php crawler.
I’ll read it at length this weekend.
People who care should acknowledge the work of committed filipinos like AES Watch who still keeps the issues alive too.
Otherwise, the next barangay elections is a repeat of the recent one.
these losers got a never ending drama, yuou better spend the rest of the campaign money to the poor, election were done, move on you a** ***e…