Poll watchdogs urge blacklisting of Smartmatic; Comelec stands by certification

Poll watchdogs urge blacklisting of Smartmatic; Comelec stands by certification
Citizens of Potrero, Malabon cast their votes at Potrero Elementary School on May 9, Wednesday.
Philstar.com/Deejae Dumlao

MANILA, Philippines — On Day 3 of the Commission on Elections' canvassing of votes, poll watchdog groups labelled the 2022 polls a failure that they attributed to election software provider Smartmatic, after widespread technical glitches led to thousands of voters being stranded in their precincts for hours. 

To recall, the Comelec ahead of May 9 largely touted its retrofitted systems for this year's polls, saying these adjustments were meant to allow for as much transparency as possible by limiting human discretion through automation. 

Under the system, a separate transparency server allows the media and the public to keep pace with the count through its Public Results Website.

Speaking in an interview aired over ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said that all the complaints the group received on May 9 had something to do with the delays caused by the countless glitches around the country. 

"This is heartbreaking and this is concrete anecdotal evidence that Smartmatic failed and must be blacklisted. They must be sent out of the country and Comelec must investigate the lapses and problems and not say they are minor problems," he said. 

Arao's group was among those calling for an extension to the voting hours after many voters were still in line an hour before the election was officially scheduled to end. These calls, however, ultimately went unheeded. Arao called this a case of potential voter disenfrachisement.

In a separate interview aired over ABS-CBN News Channel, National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections president Gus Lagman said that the current automated voting process is “not transparent” because it only allows voters to see receipts of their vote and not the actual votes transmitted for canvassing later on. 

"The manual counting at the precinct level would take maybe five hours. The canvassing in the past would take more than a month. But canvassing should be automated," he said. "This one, they saw the counting of those votes...and they can use that as a basis for comparing the results during canvassing."

He shared the opinion that Smartmatic should be blacklisted in the country, adding that he "had been campaigning for [that] since 2010." Doing this, he said, would necessitate the Comelec passing a resolution declaring so. 

"First of all, I'm against the use of automation at the precinct level. It should only be in electronic transmission and the canvassing but at the precinct level it should be manual so voters can see how their votes were counted," he said. 

"They've fallen in love I guess with automation...but there are many ways of automating a system, but I'm saying automate it from the electronic transmission all the way to the canvassing. That's what you'd call hybrid, and the number of people supporting hybrid system is growing."

Comelec stands by certification, preparations 

Even in the face of countless allegations casting doubt overn the conduct and integrity of the elections, Comelec commissioner George Garcia has been quick to point out that nothing has been proven yet. He claimed many of these were simply a result of "election fever."

"It's not just hardware and software, but the totality of the electoral process, and that includes transmission, even the transmission routers were all tested and certified...everything was checked, and this is different from the local source code review," Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

The Comelec on Wednesday also thanked the poll watchdog groups scrutinizing its unofficial count, referring to them as partners. "The [Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting] and the  vested with that independence that they are our partners," he said. 

According to Laudiangco, the scheduled random manual audit to validate processes also commenced today as part of the Comelec's ongoing assessment of the 2022 elections. 
— Franco Luna


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