News Commentary

Random manual audit of 2022 polls retrieves over 200 ballot boxes

Random manual audit of 2022 polls retrieves over 200 ballot boxes
A man casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in Manila on May 9, 2022.
AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin

MANILA, Philippines — The random manual audit of the 2022 elections began opening ballot boxes Thursday to ensure the accuracy of the automated count of the Comelec's vote counting machines provided by Smartmatic. 

In a virtual press briefing Thursday afternoon, lawyer Helen Graido who chairs the Random Manual Audit of the 2022 elections said that already 202 out of 757 selected clustered precincts ballot boxes had been retrieved from legislative districts with more expected to come. 

"We've deployed 50 teams for batch one...most of the ballot boxes that came in [today] are from the National Capital Region, while a huge chunk came from Nueva Ecija while another [portion] came from Pampanga," she said. 

Graido, also a policy consultant for the Legal Network for Truthful Elections, was speaking from the audit's centralized venue at the Diamond Hotel in Pasay City. 

She said the RMA was slated to run for 45 days and would look at the elections for president, vice president, senators, congresspersons, party-lists, and mayors. 

"For the first day, the challenge is to make the information more accessible and digestible. I know the process could be boring, rigorous and technical, but perhaps [it's important] we look at why we're doing this for 45 days and what it's for. It's making sure the integrity of the system is maintained just so we can eventually improve the system and see if anything needs to be changed or streamlined," she said. 

For the first day, representatives from Anakpawis and Gabriela were present to observe the audit. Volunteers from watchdogs including the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the Asian Network for Free Elections from abroad were also present. 

"The general voting public is more than welcome to join us here on the floor as observers," Graido said. 

How does it work?

The rigorous audit process requires verifiers to be registered or certified public accountants to ensure expertise in the audit. Supervisors, who are representatives from poll watchdog groups and civil society organizations, will also be present on the floor. Members of the media, political parties, and even the general public are "encouraged and called on to be part of the audit as observers and watchers."

"We want the process to be very transparent even if there are limitations to our safety [to] maintain its accessibility and transparency," Graido told reporters in mixed Filipino and English. 
The RMAC is also "working on" securing antigen testing for observers looking to show up as observers on the floor. 

Graido explained that the Random Manual Audit Committee is a tripartite entity made up of the Comelec, Philippine Statistics Authority, and the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations chaired by the Legal Network for Truthful Elections.

However, she was quick to dispell any expectations that these would function as check and balances of sorts on the results of the elections, which have Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late ousted despot, holding a nearly insurmountable lead over his rivals. 

"It is simply just an audit. It would be inaccurate for us to expand the accuracy rates or the results to actually say that a candidate is a winner or a loser. We're just looking at the performance of the machines. It's not intended to proclaim a winner or stop the count because of inaccuracies we might find," she said. — Franco Luna 

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