MANILA — The alleged discrepancies in the transmission of election night results on May 9, 2022 and the speed by which vote results were reported have now been raised before the Supreme Court in a petition that seeks to preserve data logs of telecommunication companies.
Two former government officials and a software app developer on Thursday filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop telecommunication companies from deleting data transmission logs on election night and to compel them to submit these data to the high court.
The petition for mandamus was filed by former Information and Communications Technology secretary Eliseo Rio, Jr., NAMFREL president/former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman and former Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines president Franklin Ysaac, claiming to be “taxpayers from diverse backgrounds sharing a common desire to save Philippine democracy…”
A mandamus petition seeks to order a tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or a person who neglects to perform an act mandated by law as a duty to do the required act.
Named as respondents in the petition were Comelec and its service provider Smartmatic as well as telcos DITO, Globe, and Smart.
Petitioners stressed the need to preserve data transmission logs of telcos from 7 pm to 9 pm on May 9, 2022, as the 6-month period for keeping them will soon lapse on Nov 9.
Telcos are required to preserve the integrity of traffic data and subscriber information for at least 6 months under the Cybercrime and Prevention Act.
Petitioners claimed there are questions on data transmission but Comelec supposedly ignored their plea for more information.
They doubted how the Transparency Server could have reported 1.5M votes by 7:17 pm of May 9 or 17 mins after polls closed and 20M votes by 8:02 pm when it supposedly takes electoral boards 30 mins to print 8 copies of election returns before starting transmissions.
“It would take at least 30 minutes, after the last voter cast his/her vote after closing time, to officially close the voting, set up the VCM for printing, print 8 copies of the ER (with unavoidable printing break time delays necessary for replenishing rolls of depleted thermal printer paper), affixing the signatures of the teachers on each and every ER set or a total of 8 ER sets, and then give some time for the poll watchers to scrutinize the printed ER. Then and only then can the ER be transmitted electronically to the Transparency Server,” the petition said.
“The earliest transmissions then would occur after 7:30 pm. It is therefore impossible for the Transparency Server to have shown to the public 1.5M votes by 7:17 pm!” it added.
They questioned why 20 million votes were supposedly counted on the first hour while only 13.2 million votes were counted on the second hour, from 8:02 pm to 9:02 pm, when supposedly more vote counting machines should have been ready for transmission, calling the results “mathematically, logically and statistically highly improbable if not impossible.”
Petitioners also asked how the 20M votes reflected in the Transparency Server as of 8:02 pm could be reconciled with information from another Comelec presentation showing only 20,000 vote counting machines transmitted their data as of 8:02 pm.
These 20,000 VCMs allegedly accounted for only 12M votes, assuming each VCM handled 600 voters.
Petitioners included in their petition the allegedly ”uncanny constant vote ratio" between President Bongbong Marcos (60/59%) and former Vice President Leni Robredo (28/29%) and between VP Sara Duterte (63/64%) and ex-Sen. Kiko Pangilinan (19/20%) in vote updates from Transparency Server.
“It would have been easy for Comelec to have answered our letter by simply showing that indeed more than 20M votes were counted in the first hour because these large number of votes were the basis of their explanation to the public that the highly statistically improbable constant vote ratios of all candidates for president and vice president, that appeared in every update of the counting from the very beginning to end, is possible using the ‘law of large numbers’ theory,” read the petition.
"Unless COMELEC actually shows the transmission logs, collaborated by the telcos CALL DETAIL RECORDS (CDR), from 7pm to 8pm of May 9, then the election may most likely had been rigged,” it added.
But aside from the vote ratio, the petition did not submit proof as to how the election results were supposedly rigged.
The PPCRV had earlier said there was no irregularity in the "68:32" pattern.
"The relatively consistent distribution of votes may be expected to closely mirror the national vote given the random pattern of receipt of the transmitted results,” it said.
But petitioners clarified they’re not necessarily questioning the election results.
In an interview with ANC Rundown on Thursday, Rio explained they were forced to go to the Supreme Court because they could not get information from Comelec to substantiate the 20 million votes reported on the first hour after the May 9 polls closed.
“So we are asking Comelec, we wrote them a letter on July 15 to show proof that this counting is real the 20 million count is real by showing proof of the transmission log,” he said.
“Until now we have not been answered that is why we are forced to go the Supreme Court and specifically another independent source is the telcos log but that would be deleted by Nov. 9,” he added.
Not all election experts however supported the petition.
On Twitter, former Comelec commissioner Luie Guia said it is “possible” for the results to be transmitted within one hour after the closing of the polls, “as that in fact is how the system should work and should have worked even in the past elections.”
Election lawyer Emil Marañon III, who lawyered for former Vice President Leni Robredo for the past 6 years, explained the Transparency Server has nothing to do with the official count, which is sourced from a “different transmission, going through a separate ladderized system of transmission as required by law.”
He also saw nothing wrong with the quick transmission of results on election night.
“There is nothing wrong when most results are sent to the Transparency Server between 7:30-8:00 pm. In fact, transmission can immediately start after the close of polls at 7:00 pm, except for those with long lines or transmission issues. Ask those who served last elections,” he said on Twitter.
“It is expected that results from all over the country can flood the Transparency Server at the same time since voting ends at the same time and all transmissions almost occur at the same period. When you see the average of consolidated large data, movements should be fast,” he added.
He also said audits by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) “showed no cause for alarm or any evidence of fraud.”
PPCRV compared precinct-level election returns (ERs) and those received at the other end of the transmission to rule out hacking at the transmission level while LENTE conducted a mandatory Random Manual Audit (RMA) or manual recount of the ballots from the randomly selected precincts from all over the country to check the correctness of the VCM count, he explained.
But Rio said there’s no need to distinguish results from the transparency server and the 2 other servers.
“It does not matter because when VCMs transmit, it transmits to the transparency server, to the Comelec central server and to the municipal server at the same time. There is a transmission report that will show the date time stamp when VCMs transmit this,” he told ANC Rundown.
He also dismissed the audit results, saying PPCRV and LENTE “only got what Comelec gave them.”
But will petitioners go as far as questioning the results of the May 2022 polls?
Rio said they will do it “step by step.”
“They can debunk it right now by just showing when the actual time transmission started. Why are they not showing [it?] ….What they are hiding?” he asked.
“The Comelec, as always, will abide by any order or process of the Honorable Supreme Court. This is a much welcome development wherein all parties, including the Comelec, will be able to conclusively respond to all issues under judicial processes,” Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said in a statement.
“But as we have consistently stated as regards citizens who may have issues relative to the electoral processes, the Comelec Rules of Procedure, as well as the Rules on Civil Procedure (Rules of Court), provide for the proper avenues by which these may be properly ventilated within the ambit of due processes of law and public order,” he added.