Invaluable role
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - May 17, 2019 - 12:00am

Cyber space is really playing an important and invaluable role in our country today. Such role is especially manifested and proven in the last elections. Social media has now become the major means of communication not only in the electoral process of choosing our candidates, but also in how the candidates introduce themselves and their platforms as they campaign to win votes.

Before the advent of the internet, candidates utilized only the press, radio and TV as their means of campaigning and presenting their platforms and programs for the positions they seek. At present however and in the past elections since the information technology has come alive, social media has become one of the primary means of campaigning and getting votes especially because they are less expensive and more effective in reaching out to more voters. Of course, the use of campaign posters and streamers cannot be totally eliminated. They are still necessary for purposes of going down to the grassroots level of the electorate particularly the poor and the marginalized that are not so well versed in the use of modern technologies.

And as shown during the last elections, the internet is also the best way of recording and producing evidence concerning the illegal means employed by some candidates in their campaign. Most noticeable and quite obvious in the last election is the anomalous and illegal manner of buying the votes of the electorate especially during the last days of the campaign period when final rallies known as miting de avanse are conducted. The most prominent vote buying incident occurred last Saturday, May 11, in the evening during a final rally of candidates for local office in Metro Manila where a well known TV host distributed cash and other give-away in order to “convince” voters to cast their votes for the candidates who were on the same stage. This incident was recorded and posted in the Facebook pages of internet users who were quite “shocked” at the blatant disregard for the rule of law.

Most unfortunate in this regard is that the Comelec has been duly notified of this incident as this FB post was forwarded to them. Under the new Rules of Court on Cyber Evidence, such posting is considered as authentic and admissible evidence of a wrongdoing. But the electoral body has not yet taken any action on it and even subsequently proclaimed the vote-buying candidates as winners. Comelec should perhaps try to reconsider and look deeper into this matter so that proper actions can be taken to correct its failure or omission to take action.

Social media and the internet have likewise played an important role in the electoral process, particularly in the counting and canvassing of the votes cast mainly because our elections are now conducted electronically. And so after the casting of votes, several glitches have been recorded and posted. These are the delays and lack of proper paraphernalia that will ensure an accurate, fair and clean election particularly as to the results.

The credibility of the last election is really questionable particularly on its transparency. As duly reported, there was an undue delay in the delivery of the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) thereby hampering the counting of votes and raising doubts about tampering of votes cast. In fact based on reports, about 961 VCMs malfunctioned while about 1,665 secure digital (SD) cards used in opening the VCMs were corrupted. Such delays and malfunctioning really cast doubts regarding the authenticity of the counting and canvassing as well as the overall results of the election.

The lack of transparency in the whole process is likewise obvious. Such lack indeed raises the possibility of cheating and manipulation of the results. This transparency server is the system that receives the electronically transmitted results from polling precincts but their server logs are not opened including those in the headquarters of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

These delays in the delivery of the VCMs and the unopened transparency servers indubitably raise doubts about the authenticity of the election results. Such delay is quite obvious in several cities in Metro Manila, thus rendering the results of the election doubtful and controversial.

To erase all doubts and to show that the results are true and correct despite these glitches, Comelec should take steps to verify their accuracy and authenticity. The best move here is to open the logs of the transparency servers and to conduct a random manual audit of some polling precincts where certain irregularities happened. Such audit would test whether the VCMs accurately performed the counting as to reflect the true results of the election in particular areas. In fact the Comelec has already expressed its willingness to do so. The Comelec should likewise take concrete actions on the duly recorded vote buying incidents that occurred immediately before the elections so that the candidates who engaged in such illegal practice will be disqualified.

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