Erap asks Comelec to return to manual voting

By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 06 2013 07:32 AM | Updated as of Feb 06 2013 03:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former President Joseph Estrada has called for the return to manual voting after glitches were noted in the mock elections conducted over the weekend with the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

In a telephone interview with The STAR yesterday, Estrada said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should return to manual voting to prevent a repeat of the “Hocus PCOS” in the 2013 midterm elections.

“If Comelec cannot return to manual voting this coming May elections, it must do so in the 2016 presidential elections. The PCOS machine can easily be manipulated by IT (information technology) experts,” Estrada said, adding there is no effective way to safeguard the machine.

In Maguindanao, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he intentionally listed in the ballot more than the number of candidates required to test if the PCOS machine would invalidate it.

Mangudadatu said he was surprised when the machine accepted his supposedly spoiled ballot.

Glitches were also noted in the mock election at University of the Philippines when the machine rejected the ballot of one of the participants.

Estrada, who is running for mayor of Manila under the banner of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), earlier warned of a re-emergence of the “Hocus PCOS” or manipulated PCOS machines in the midterm elections.

“That’s what I’m saying. The PCOS machine was turned into Hocus PCOS. Unlike in manual voting, you have nothing to present once you file a protest against your opponent in the election using the PCOS machine,” he said.

The former president also expressed concern over the unused ballots in May.

“Supposing there are 200 voters and only 70 percent or 140 voters cast their votes. What will happen to the remaining 60 ballots for the 60 voters? The cheaters could easily fill it up in their favor,” he said.

Estrada said during election day, candidates subjected to cheating through the “Hocus PCOS” could not monitor the fraud.

This developed as Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes would no longer take flak for the PCOS machines.

Brillantes said PCOS critic and former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman should cease from commenting on legal issue because he does not know what he is talking about.

“Don’t give too much statements when you don’t understand what is happening here. Don’t give statements about legal, like when it comes to Dominion-Smartmatic legality,” Brillantes said.

“When it comes to IT, I won’t say I am better than you. But keep away from legalities,” he added.

Brillantes was reacting to Lagman’s remark that the Comelec is courting legal suit by insisting on the use of source code, which is now under legal dispute between Smartmatic and International Dominion Voting System. He said the former commissioner should not pretend that he knows everything about elections because he only served as poll official for merely 10 months.

He also ruled out the possibility of adopting the open election system (OES), which is being pushed by Lagman as a replacement for PCOS.

If the OES is adopted, Brillantes said the election result would be delayed since the manual counting could not be encoded immediately for transmission and electronic canvass.

Broad base support

Meanwhile, Sen. Gregorio Honasan and former Senate president Ernesto Maceda said the administration needs broad base support in the Senate to solve the problems of underemployment and poverty.

Honasan and Maceda, both UNA senatorial candidates, said the economy is moving forward not because of Aquino’s programs, but due to the dollar remittance of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Maceda said the 6.6 percent growth as reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) was not due to key sectors like agriculture and industry.

He said the admission of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad regarding the need for the government to address unemployment and poverty indicated that senators should push for measures that would create more jobs, expand infrastructure and further increase the country’s competitiveness.

“How can you have a 6.6 percent growth rate when the imports are only 2.6 percent. At any rate, the question now is, can it be sustained?” Maceda said.

For his part, Honasan said the 6.6 percent is a good start but apart from Abad, National Economic and Development Authority director-general Arsenio Balisacan also said this must be “inclusive.”

“Meaning, jobs and infrastructure should reflect on the much awaited trickle down effect to be believable, credible and tangible to poor Filipinos,” he said.

UNA secretary-general Toby Tiangco said Abad should be commended for being honest and forthright in admitting that employment failed to grow in 2012 in spite of the 6.6 percent growth in gross domestic product.