In a manifestation filed before the Comelec, Namfrel said it is grateful to the poll body for granting them accreditation to conduct the “Random Manual Audit (RMA),” but noted that the commission declined to grant their prayers related to open access data, such as but not limited to: documents, data and information that included election day and precinct computerized voters’ list, project of precincts and related precinct statistics, copy of certificate of canvass (COC), copy of the precinct election return (ER), municipality/city statement of votes.
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Namfrel declines accreditation as citizens’ arm for May polls
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 4, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Election watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has announced that it is declining its accreditation as citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the May 13 polls.

In a manifestation filed before the Comelec, Namfrel said it is grateful to the poll body for granting them accreditation to conduct the “Random Manual Audit (RMA),” but noted that the commission declined to grant their prayers related to open access data, such as but not limited to: documents, data and information that included election day and precinct computerized voters’ list, project of precincts and related precinct statistics, copy of certificate of canvass (COC), copy of the precinct election return (ER), municipality/city statement of votes.

Namfrel also said that Comelec denied them access to “transmitted ER from the main server, audit logs, DNS server logs, single line transmission diagram, data structure of transmittted ER and COC, voter verifiable paper audit trail on RMA selected precincts, vote counting machine and consolidation and canvassing system logs, transmission logs, candidates list in all positions nationwide, statement of contribution and expenses, local absentee voting/overseas absenting voters data.”

Namfrel national council member Lito Averia argued that without open access to information and data, petitioner is unable to participate in the RMA because the inaccessibility diminishes the verifiability of data separately provided during the RMA.

“The data and information we are requesting are significant and important in validating results of the RMA. The RMA tries to validate the accuracy of the machine, that is the machine count versus the human count,” Averia said at a news conference in Makati City.

The Comelec will look into the possible implications of the withdrawal by Namfrel of its accreditation as the poll body’s citizen arm.

According to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, Namfrel is their lead partner in the RMA that will be conducted after the voting on election day.       “This is something that needs to be looked at. In fact, they have already done so much for this and this is not a simple case of – kung ayaw mo, ’wag na,” he said at a press briefing. 

Jimenez admitted it would not be easy for the Comelec if a partner pulls out.  

“We will do everything we can to address the situation. Both sides will have to reach out to each other,” he added.  

RMA is a procedure wherein ballots from randomly selected polling precincts are tabulated manually to determine the vote counting machines have counted them accurately.  

Namfrel even cited that events that transpired during the 2016 Philippine elections and the counting period thereafter showed that access to data logs and actual data transmitted, such as ER and voter-verified paper audit trail or VVPAT, COC and corresponding statement of votes, would have made the RMA more robust and enabled more meaningful test designs.

Namfrel national chairman Augusto Lagman added, “Without access to open election data, we might be getting information or making analysis that are lacking, which is difficult, better no access at all than limited.”

Lagman said that without accreditation, it will be difficult for them but they are optimistic they will be able to find ways or information through other sources.

Namfrel was accredited to serve as the citizens’ arm of the Comelec for the coming May elections last March 29 after the group filed their petition on Dec. 5 last year.

In its petition for accreditation, Namfrel identified three important activities that included the launch of the open election data website; basic monitoring, that is, monitoring the processes and schedules of the Automated Election System (from procurement to delivery of machines to performance of the vote counting machines and the transmission and canvassing of election results during election day); and observing the team that will do manual examination of the ballots to validate the machine count, that is the RMA. – With Sheila Crisostomo  

LITO AVERIA NATIONAL CITIZENS’ MOVEMENT FOR FREE ELECTIONS (NAMFREL)
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