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How Comelec’s PCOS botched 2013 election

One need not be a computer geek to grasp how the PCOS (precinct count optical scanners) fudged the 2013 elections. High school numeracy would do, along with openness to facts. This sequel to last Monday’s layman-ized brief is not for those who insist the Holocaust never happened.

First, the scenario: The Comelec is to waste our people’s money on the PCOS two ways in 2016. One is to repair the 82,000 old units for P1.2 billion, then lease 23,000 more for P2.5 billion, totaling P3.7 billion. The other is to buy 100,000 all-new units for P14 billion. Either way the result will be the cheating of election results, like in 2013.

History is repeating itself – in a worse way. A year before the 2013 election, the then-new Comelec chairman and commissioners already did it. They purchased for an added P3.8 billion the 76,000 units first leased for P7.2 billion in 2010, and ordered 6,000 more. Including accessorizing and warehousing, the total 82,000 units have cost us P15 billion so far.

Biggest automation spender

And yet today’s Comelec, under yet another newbie chief, is to throw away up to P14 billion more on the same unreliable PCOS. The agency has become the world’s biggest spender on poll automation. This is ironically at a time when 33 other countries, led by high-tech Germany, are going back to manual. The Comelec must be gayly under the spell of Cesar Flores, alien country manager of Venezuelan supplier Smartmatic.

Smartmatic, by the way, was proven in a 2012 US lawsuit to not be the PCOS software owner-developer; the suing party is. Still, Comelec bought the 82,000 PCOS from mere dealer Smartmatic, in breach of the Election Automation Law. If not lawyers, then the NPA, must do their patriotic duty of exacting justice.

Transmission failures

May 13, 2013, Election Day, was a mess. Three hours into the counting the Comelec Transparency Server posted a spurt of 12 million senatorial votes culled from the precincts. Even the docile poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), which was manning the server, found it odd. Smartmatic techs went in to “fix” what they called a “programming error.” That should have raised red flags. But the Comelec went along with it. They had bought the machines that they didn’t know how to run, so were dependent on the seller, like shabu addicts to the pusher.

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A week later, May 10, PPCRV shut down the server. It had done only 59,667 (76 percent) of the 78,166 precincts nationwide. The balance of 24 percent (18,499 precincts) was never transmitted due to PCOS failures. Comelec blamed the telecom firms for it, but the latter proved that the voting machines truly were at fault. In 2010 transmission failures marred eight percent of the 76,000 PCOS; in 2013 it was one-fourth of the 82,000.


Premature proclamations

Comelec tried to cover up the transmission failures. They resorted to fudging the figures. Convening on May 14 as National Board of Canvassers, they had nothing to canvass. So they picked on the trickle of certificates of canvass (COCs) from overseas voting centers, until the local ones came in. To have something to report, the chairman declared a 65-percent voter turnout, or 33.8 million of the 52 million registered. It was a mid-term balloting, dry compared to presidential, he said.

Suddenly on Day 3, May 16, Comelec declared six senatorial winners, and on Day 4, May 17, three more. They said the lead of the nine already was too big to be upset by the rest of the canvassing.

Yet their basis for it was only 72 COCs (23.7 percent) of the total 304. The 72 COCs denoted only 13 million of the 33.8 million turnouts.

As protests mounted, Comelec on Day 6, May 19, proclaimed the last three of 12 senatorial winners. The PCOS sure was fast – in cheating. By then Comelec had canvassed only 129 (42 percent) of the 304 COCs.

Proof of fraud on website

On the previous night, May 18, was posted on the Comelec official website the partial canvass of 129 COCs for all 33 senatorial candidates (see Table 1). It said the total 304 COCs contained 39,898,992 votes, meaning, coming from that number of ballots.

The 39,898,992 weren’t just 65-percent turnout, but a hefty 77 – more than the 74 percent in the hotly contested 2010 presidential election.

That partial tally stayed on the Comelec website for three weeks, till June 6. It was enough time for the observant to wonder: if the Top 5 senators’ votes from only 42 percent of the COCs already ranged from 20,147,423 to 16,645,515, then it would be safe to conclude that when the 58-percent balance came in, the totals would more than double. For, the 42 percent, or 129 COCs, included most of the low-turnout overseas voting. Besides, the Comelec randomly had pre-selected the order of local COCs to canvass to avoid accusations of trending. Meaning the first 42 percent and the 58-percent balance were mixes of low-voter districts like Batanes and Catanduanes, and 200,000-strong ones like Cavite, Pangasinan, Metro Manila, and Cebu.

More votes than voters

But here’s the catch. If the Top 5’s votes were at least doubled, when the 58-percent balance came in, those would have exceeded 40 million or be almost 33.8 million.

No. 5 would have garnered more than 32 million votes, or 95 percent of the 33.8-million turnout. It would be record-breaking. At best a senatorial frontrunner, not the No. 5, usually got only 50 percent.

To continue, No. 1 would have gotten 40 million-plus votes, or more than the 33.8-million turnout. It would have been an earthshaking 77 percent of the total 52-million registered voters.

There were more votes than voters, a miracle next only to Jesus feeding the 5,000-multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish.

Loose change from half of COCs

But not to worry. Comelec had a nifty answer to the Math questions about its website entries. There were to be no excesses. On June 7 they finally came out with the 58-percent balance from the 175 COCs (see Table 2). The increments were not a doubling by the millions of the first batch of 42 percent, or 129 COCs. They were by less than 200,000 for the Top 12, ranging from only 195,473 for No. 7, to 72,270 for No. 3.

The inquisitive naturally didn’t buy the “final” figures. They deduced that if the Comelec reported 39,898,992 votes in 304 COCs, but the Top 12 got at best 72,000 to 195,000 more from the 58-percent balance, then the also-rans, Nos. 13 to 33, must have cornered the missing millions of votes.

But no, they didn’t. In fact, the standings based on the May 18 website posting remained the same on June 7. On that latter canvass, with only meager incremental votes, the Comelec on June 5, 2013, declared by formal resolution the senatorial results.

Epiloque: one last fudging

I reported the two discrepancies (Tables 1 and 2) in my column of July 1, 2013 (see http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2013/07/01/960201/will-manual-recount-sh...).

By then, mathematicians from AES (Automated Election Systems) Watch had detected another scam. There was a 60-30-10-percent trend for administration-opposition-independent senatorial candidates (Table 1). This was in all regions, provinces, districts, cities, municipalities, and even precincts. The trend disregarded traditional voting habits like junking, and cultural or home-province bailiwicks.

The following week Malacañang quietly called in the Comelec bigwigs to “clean up” their mess. They asked for P30 million to do it. That was illegal. Congress, starting in the 2012 annual national budget, had forbidden Comelec and other non-law enforcement agencies from having intelligence funds.

Nonetheless on July 11 was posted on the Comelec website a new “final” result (see Table 3). Notably, in that latest posting, the votes of the Top 12 were reduced, ranging from 3,996,994 for No.1 to 2,590,443 for No. 12. Even the voter turnout was “massaged,” from 39,898,992 to 31,568,679, a decrease of 8,330,313 – to confirm with Brillantes’ announcement of 65-percent turnout.

The new entries appeared to overrule the official Comelec resolution of June 5, 2013 declaring the old final results. More details in my column of July 15, 2013 (see http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2013/07/15/970841/comelec-website-displa...).

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