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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

If as alleged by Comelec/DOJ investigating panel, massive cheatings marred the manual 2004 and 2007 elections, it’s not difficult to see that the May 2010 automated elections were easier to cheat

In the last two days, a citizens’ group answering to the name of Tanggulang Demokrasya (or TanDem for short) and professing non-partisanship, held a two-day seminar/workshop for interested parties, that focused on the “clear and unmistakable failures of Smartmatic and Comelec to comply with the safeguards for automated elections prescribed by the Automation Law.” TanDem said it aims to focus on the 2010 national and local elections’ shortcomings in order to avoid their repetition in the 2013 and 2016 elections. It stressed the need inasmuch as the Comelec has merely “noted” its petition to investigate the 2010 elections---preferring instead to rake up allegations of anomalies in the 2004 and 2007 elections in a clear effort to nail down former President Macapagal Arroyo and former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and put them behind bars.
In a democratic setting, investigations into violations of election laws ought to be conducted and guilty parties prosecuted, and there are prescribed processes for such action. But obviously TanDem fears, as many others do, that there has been too much emphasis on investigations into 2004 and 2007 elections, when the 2010 elections---the country’s very first experiment in automated national elections---were too riddled with flaws that are bound to be repeated in the coming automated elections. The citizens’ group now seeks to pressure Comelec into conducting an honest-to-goodness investigation into the 2010 elections and let the political chips fall where they may---if we are to protect the results of the 2013 and 2016 elections.

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Actually, the allegations of massive frauds committed in the 2004 and 2007 elections being brought out by the Comelec under new chair Sixto Brillantes can be very useful in investigating the 2010 election frauds.  TanDem’s logic here is that if, as is being alleged by former Maguindanao administrator Norie Unas, there were such massive frauds in those two earlier elections which were conducted, tabulated and canvassed manually, all the more it would be easier to cheat in automated elections, as this involves only the pushing of buttons and transmissions by electronic system.

Moreover, as was stressed in the two-day conference/workshop sponsored by TanDem, the Melo-chaired Comelec decided to disregard safeguards in the Automation Law that would have helped guarantee clean and honest elections. As this blog stressed the other day, these included discarding the UV lamps that would have checked ballot authenticity, and throwing out the digital signatures of  each of the PCOS machines as well as the digital signatures of the chiefs of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) in every precinct across the country. Moreover, the Melo Comelec had consistently refused to make available to Filipino  computer experts the AES source code as provided by Smartmatic, the vendor of the PCOS machines. The source code is the bible of the automated elections.   
 Indeed, as TanDem stalwart Bobby Hilado opines, it had seemed like a total “surrender of control” of the 2010 elections by Comelec to Smartmatic.  Hence the need for the Brillantes-chaired Comelec to truly go deep into the allegations of frauds in 2010;  so far, however, it has given no indication whatsoever as to its intentions, beyond “noting” TanDem’s petition for investigation.

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The hearings conducted by the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms in the previous Congress, as chaired by former Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin, brought out so many serious failings of the May 2010 elections, which  he himself had acknowledged in his final committee report to the House. It was also around that time that a man wearing a ski mask surfaced in a press conference to expose alleged machinations of election results of 2010 through a conspiracy between Comelec personnel and outside technical “interventionists” manipulating the PCOS machines, to favor certain local and national candidates. Because of the man’s odd appearance, Locsin nicknamed him “Koala Boy” which exposed him to derision; it was also unfortunate that the accuser refused to divulge his identity, doubtless fearing reprisals on his life. But anyone listening to him realized that the masked guy knew a great deal about conspiratorial high-tech frauds and shenanigans and certain unexpected results bore out his assertions.

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In various electoral protests filed by losing candidates such as Glenn Chiong of Biliran and former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanual “Manny” Pinol after the 2010 elections, common patterns of fraud emerged---which Comelec should be taking heed of seriously, if only it’s not too obsessed to nail down GMA for alleged frauds in earlier elections. For instance, this blogger cited the incredible appearance of election results from Colombia, South America, in a compact flash (CF) card used in a precinct in the municipality of Pikit, North Cotabato, where Pinol, who held the governorship FOR THREE STRAIGHT TERMS before moving down as vice-governor, lost by almost 20,000 votes!  His defeat was cited by political analysts as one of the biggest upsets in the 2010 elections.
Pinol’s lawyers also cited innumerable discrepancies such as ballots actually used that were shorter by an inch than the Comelec-issued ones (how were they read by the machines?), mislabeled ballot boxes, missing ER copies, statement of votes and minutes of voting, etc, etc.

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All across the country election protests were filed with similar patterns of discrepancy as in the Pinol case, and yet the Comelec has not acted on these protests. Instead it concentrates on the 2004 and 2007 elections, perhaps because the administration script calls for former President GMA’s jailing before Christmas! TanDem is on the correct path---the citizens have to pressure the poll body to act now on the failings of the 2010 elections, as otherwise we won’t have real elections in 2013 and 2016 and our democracy would be in grave peril. This is because politicians need only resort to buying victory from the conspirators of 2010---if nothing is done to seriously investigate the frauds in those elections.

As TanDem put it in its manifesto, titled “We Rise in Defense of Democracy,” issued at its May 26, 2011 launch, “”The focused objective of TanDem is to bring to the people’s attention the serious electoral crimes; to demand accountability, and to seek an immediate rectification of the corrupted Automated Electoral System before any other automated elections are held.” All of these, stressed TanDem, “are in the pursuit of unblemished democracy...Shall we idly sit without even being aware of the piracy of our suffrage? But realizing the daylight piracy, shall we allow ourselves to be robbed of our most cherished democratic rights? Or shall we rise in defense of democracy?”
  
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