8-M votes still uncounted; new cheating modus seen

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

More than eight million votes remain untallied by the Comelec central server till noon yesterday, eight long days after Election Day.

The eight million unaccounted votes comprise 23.7 percent, nearly one-fourth of the total votes cast. (Of roughly 52 million voters, Comelec says, about 36.4 million or 70 percent actually voted).

The eight million are missing because un-transmitted by precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machines assigned to clusters.

Why they stay un-transmitted by the supposedly superfast PCOS, the Comelec won’t say, apart from blaming unspecified “local fights.”

As of 11:01 a.m. yesterday, only 59,667 of 78,166 precinct clusters had been accounted for. (Check out the website ppcrv.org; the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting is monitoring the Comelec’s so-called “transparency server”.)

It has been stuck there since Monday, May 20, in fact.

Meaning, 18,499 clusters -- with over eight million votes -- have not transmitted tallies for one reason or another since last week, May 13.

That 18,499 clusters have not transmitted could be due to PCOS hard and/or software breakdowns.

If not, it could be due to defective compact-flash (CF) cards inserted in the PCOS to transmit.

But the Comelec and its PCOS supplier Smartmatic insist that only 156 PCOS units bogged down on Election Day. Too, that the CF cards that Smartmatic supplied (at overprice) worked fine.

It can’t be the fault of telcos PLDT, Smart, Sun, and Globe either; their signals were okay on and after Election Day. Even if telco signals jammed, the CF cards could have been brought by land, sea, or air to the Comelec central office by now, one week later — but weren’t.

If so, then the only reason left for 18,499 clusters to delay reporting eight million votes is to give way to manipulation of results.

The manipulation could be for local contests: provincial, city, municipal, congressional. Or, for national: senatorial, party-list.

Whatever, the CF card — the virtual ballot box — is now the center of renewed dagdag-bawas (vote padding-shaving) under the new automated election system.

The Comelec should look into this, knowing that cheats will stop at nothing, under manual or automated counting, to steal the vote.

Sadly, though, the poll body could have purposely or unwittingly covered up the cheating with its wrongful premature proclamation of senatorial winners last week.

Whichever, the Comelec itself must be investigated for the non-transmission scam, and the ensuing cover-up.

*      *      *

Poll watchdog PPCRV saw the transmission failures from the start. These came after an initial spurt of 12 million votes tallied by the Comelec transparency server within the first hour of counting on the night of May 13. “A physical impossibility,” other watchdogs Namfrel, Kontra Daya, and AES-Watch said.

A Smartmatic exec and a tech came to fix a “computer programming error,” after which the counting resumed. The PPCRV asked Comelec for the visitor logbook to identify them. Chairman Sixto Brillantes declined, a PPCRV official told The STAR.

For the next two-and-a-half days the tallies came in trickles. On Thursday, May 16, the server finally notched 69 percent, crawling still at snail’s pace to 76.3 percent by Monday the 20th.

Brillantes too noticed the super-slow PCOS. Instead of admitting, he covered it up by proclaiming last Thursday the six top senatorial vote getters. At the time he had recorded only 72 of 304 certificates of canvass, or 23.6 percent of the votes. Legal luminaries decried his act as illegal.

Brillantes went on to proclaim three more senators on Friday, and the last three on Sunday. “As if he was under pressure or accommodating somebody,” said the PPCRV official. “At any rate, he distracted the people from the scam with CF cards in the field.”

With eight million votes yet to come, the last four senatorial slots are still contestable, since vote variances between them are fractions of a million.

Brillantes based his early proclamations on “group canvasses,” that is, projected and not actual numbers of votes cast. In short, guesswork.

*      *      *

Only now have poll cheats learned to manipulate the CF cards, ex-Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman told The STAR. Very few knew how in 2010, the first usage of the vulnerable PCOS system.

Lagman recalled the snafu with the CF cards that year, when Smartmatic had to replace and reprogram 76,000 pieces. The originals had bogged down or transmitted false tallies during the Final Testing and Sealing (FTS) of PCOS machines at the precinct-level.

It was only a week before election. Rushing the job, Smartmatic fielded thousands of techs. Any one of them, with a devious mind, can now sell his vile service to manipulate the CF card of the PCOS at the precinct, Lagman said. That cheat could do it for the highest bidding local candidate, or a senatorial tail-ender, or a losing party list.

It would be easy. Smartmatic had supplied ordinary rewritable CF cards, instead of the WORM-type (write once-read many).

Besides, the backup CF card in each PCOS was also not subjected to FTS before this Election Day, Lagman said. The cards could have been corrupted from the start.

Last Monday the PPCRV redeployed field volunteers to find out why the 18,499 precinct clusters had not yet transmitted tallies. Catholic bishops and Muslim imams reportedly have joined in.

PPCRV spokeswoman Ana de Villa-Singson said they know exactly which precincts in what municipalities have not transmitted, since the server shows them.

Lanao del Sur, a traditional dagdag-bawas province, has the lowest transmission rate of 16 percent, or only 182 of 1,146 precincts. Brillantes brags that under his watch, Lanao for the first time did not suffer failure of election — forgetting that non-reporting of votes is like no voting at all.

Ifugao, also notorious, follows with 26 percent, or only 60 of 232 precincts.

Other provinces with less than half of precincts reported are Sultan Kudarat (40 percent), Basilan, (42), Maguindanao (42), and Zamboanga del Norte (43). (Click on the map in ppcrv.org for province-specific info.)

Provinces with large voting populations contributed to the mess. Like, Pangasinan with 1.8 million voters has transmitted only 70 percent, or 1,648 of 2,364 precincts — with 540,000 missing. And yet, local reports already state the incumbent governor winning by a landslide.

Meanwhile, Brillantes says he needs ten long days more, starting Monday, to canvass the votes for 58 party list winners. Odd, given that only half of voters picked any party. Is that the grace period for losing parties to pay up the winning ante?

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: [email protected]


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