Data scientists, academics debunk Marcos' electoral fraud claim


MANILA -- More than 100 data scientists and academics have joined forces in debunking Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s claim of electoral fraud as he trails Congresswoman Leni Robredo in the vice presidential race.

The group, composed of data science professionals and academics from different universities and agencies, both in the Philippines and abroad, asserted that the graph of difference of votes between Marcos and Robredo was not due to election fraud, but is "the expected pattern."

"We assert that an inverted V-shaped graph of the difference of votes between vice-presidential candidates Marcos and Robredo, plotted against the percentage of votes transmitted, does not amount to evidence of fraud," the group said in a statement Tuesday.

"Given that the votes came from different regions at different times, the shape of the graph is, in fact, the expected pattern. Many individuals and groups carried out independent analyses and communicated technical and logical arguments arriving at this conclusion," the group said.

The group also called on those who analyze and interpret data, those who report on results of data analysis and those who read reports and claims based on data analysis to be careful in their pronouncements and conclusions, especially when it involves public interest.

"We recognize that with this power comes great responsibility. To be trusted to use data correctly and responsibly, we must raise the level of transparency and accountability within our own community. In the spirit of peer review, we have the duty not only to be careful in the work we do, but also to be critical of the work of others."

The group also said their statement is not political, but is a response to the debate between Marcos and Senator Bam Aquino about the role of academics in proving or disproving electoral fraud.

A Marcos supporter, De La Salle University political science professor Antonio Contreras, earlier called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct a forensic investigation into its Automated Election System (AES) amid claims of electoral fraud in the vice presidential race.

Contreras said statistician David Yap noticed "abnormal patterns" in the quick count for vice presidential candidates.

Miguel Barreto Garcia, one of the signatories of the Call for Responsible Data Science in National Discourse and a Ph.D student from the University of Zurich, believes both Contreras and Yap are "irresponsible for incorrectly interpreting the graph" he showed them.

"In their original argument, they saw a linear decline in Marcos’s votes and they used this finding to claim electoral fraud. I pointed out that if that were true, Marcos should also be cheating in the early hours of the transmission, because it also showed a linear trend. I just saw in a later post Contreras using my graph to indicate electoral fraud. I couldn’t believe it; even graphs can be taken out of context and completely misinterpreted to suit their interests," he said.

Emmanuel Lorenzo de los Santos, a research fellow in the University of Warwick and also a signatory of the statement, believes that anyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but this opinion requires precision once one puts on his or her scientist or analyst hat.

"As citizens, we're each entitled to our own opinions. But when we put on our scientist/analyst hats, precision in terms and methodology review is very important. Failing to recognize this is irresponsible and undermines the credibility of the entire field," he said.

For Peter Julian Cayton, a statistics professor from the University of the Philippines, the data that the group has cannot be used to either prove or disprove cheating.

"The data that we have right now cannot distinguish between cheated and true results. I would not conclude that there was nor no cheating," he said.


In a privilege speech in the Senate on Monday, Marcos called for the immediate proclamation of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte while urging that the proclamation for the vice-president position be put on hold.

"I humbly but firmly reiterate, my strong reservations in the canvassing of the results of the Vice-Presidential elections, on the basis of electoral irregularities on the two fronts that I mentioned. I raise all these for the millions of Filipinos who voted for me and all the other voters whose votes were 'lost' and remain uncounted," Marcos said.

Robredo's representative, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, meanwhile believes Marcos is only engaging in a "fishing expedition" after the son of the late dictator admitted he has no evidence of massive cheating in the Comelec transparency server.

"Upon interpellation by Sen. Bam Aquino, Marcos admitted he has no evidence of massive cheating in the transparency server (TS). He is not sure whether the cosmetic change in the transparency server affected only the [vice-presidential race], that's why he wanted said system audit," Macalintal said.