MANILA, Philippines – Multi-sectoral groups led by the Makati Business Club (MBC) on Sunday called for a parallel manual count of the May 10 automated polls, saying that it would boost the “credibility and acceptability” of the May 10 election results.
“We support it because we know what automation entails and we know what the dangers are in automation,” MBC Chairman Ramon del Rosario said during a joint press conference at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan Sunday morning.
Del Rosario clarified that the proposal did not just come from the business community, but from other sectors as well.
“We think that this proposal that’s being put forward by the IT community, by the farmer community and now by the business community is very reasonable in terms of cost of hours, in terms of cost of funds and it will add immensely to the credibility and acceptability of the result,” he added.
Other attendees at Sunday’s press conference were members of the IT community and officials of farmers’ alliance Alyansa Agrikultura.
“We do not want failure and we do not want cheating…,” stated Alyansa Agrikultura Chairman Ernesto Ordoñez.
The MBC, meantime, explained why it signed the open letter regarding the proposal for a parallel manual count.
MBC Executive Director Alberto Lim stated: “The business sector is also delivering the letter because many sectors signed that open letter to the Comelec.”
“Chief Justice [Artemio] Panganiban in January suggested the 100% manual count so it's not only now,” added Lim.
Business groups claimed that most of the presidential candidates will join their call for a manual count simultaneous with the automated polls.
Higher degree of desire
Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that while the poll body appreciates the groups’ efforts to ensure the prevention of fraud, there is no need to worry.
“But rest assured, Comelec is equally or even more… It has a higher degree of desire on the part of the Comelec to ensure that prevention of fraud. Rest assured, our main goal is to conduct successful and credible elections,” he said in an interview on “Dateline Philippines Sunday.”
Larrazabal denied the announcement made during the press conference that he would try to arrange a meeting with the multi-sectoral groups on Monday.
“I did not post on Twitter. It wasn’t me,” he said. “We're still open to meet them. I can’t see any problem.”
Larrazabal also said that a manual count is possible because of paper-based elections on May 10.
But he pointed out that the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) being held in Hong Kong and Singapore has been successful so far. Save for a delay experienced in the second day of voting, Larrazabal said the poll body has not heard about problems being experienced in Hong Kong and Singapore.
“It’s the best way to prove that it [automated system] works... What we have been hearing is that people are happy, it’s easier to vote. They were excited on being able to cast their votes using a new system,” he stated.
Fear of poll fraud
The IT experts, meanwhile, expressed doubt on the results of the automated elections because the Comelec and Smartmatic lack experience in automated polls.
Gus Lagman, convenor of Transparentelections.org, said there could be major glitches in the May elections because it is the first time for Smartmatic-TIM to implement the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) technology.
He also noted that the Philippines is the first country to make the transition from fully manual to fully automated elections nationwide.
He then explained the proposal for holding a manual count if the discrepancy between the PCOS and manual count is more than 1%.
“Kung meron isa dyan na lumampas ng 1% sa precinct ang diperensya sa PCOS and manual, then we count everything for that particular precinct,” he said.
Roberto Verzola of Halalang Marangal, for his part, said it is possible for many of the ballots printed by the Comelec to be misread by the PCOS machines.
Verzola said the ballots may have been misprinted, considering the reported displacements of the ultraviolet security markings on the ballots.
Philippine Bar Association President Simeon Marcelo hit the Comelec for saying that the random manual audit of votes is enough and that a parallel manual count is illegal.
Under a random manual audit, ballots for all positions in randomly selected precincts will be counted. A parallel manual count, on the other hand, involves an audit of a few, if not all, positions in all precincts.
Marcelo said that the law provides for a manual count, citing the Continuity Plan in Section 13 under Section 11 of the act amending Republic Act No. 8436, which authorizes the Comelec to use an automated election system.
“Under the law justified magkaroon ng full manual count ‘pag nag-malfunction yung PCOS machine. Puwede kang mag-full manual count,” said Marcelo, a former Ombudsman.
The law states that the automated election system (AES) “shall be so designed to include a continuity plan in case of a systems breakdown or any such eventuality which shall result in the delay, obstruction or nonperformance of the electoral process.”
No decision yet
Earlier, the Comelec said it has yet to decide on the proposal of a parallel manual count.
Other groups who joined the call were the Management Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Philippine Bar Association and Namfrel.
Larrazabal, who said that the Comelec’s decision will be out next week, also said that such proposal should have been brought before Congress.
“We trust in the wisdom of the members of both houses, lower and upper houses, that you conduct a random manual audit… When congress itself passed the law that specifies that there is a random manual audit one representative per district there is wisdom in determination of that number,” he said. -With a report from ANC