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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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tandem conference/workshop seeks to unlock “secrets” of 2010 elections






The camp of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has protested the obvious bias of newly confirmed Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes against her and has called on him to resign from his post. The Arroyo camp was referring to the “suggestion” by Brillantes that GMA and husband Mike Arroyo would be spending Christmas in jail, following the wrapping up by the joint panel of the Department of Justice and the Comelec of its investigation into the alleged massive poll fraud in 2004 and 2007. During the investigation, former Maguindanao administrator Norie Unas had alleged that the former First Couple had instructed him to cheat to ensure the straight victory of the administration’s twelve senatorial candidates. Brillantes had earlier opined that this was the first direct accusation that links the Arroyos, so that this could constitute probable cause that could send them to jail around Christmas time.
The Arroyos, through lawyer Innocencio Ferrer and legal spokesperson Raul Lambino, strongly protested first of all the “obvious bias” and “conflict of interest” of the Comelec Chief who, together with co-panelist Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, had been lawyers for Arroyo’s opponent in 2004, defeated candidate FPJ. The lawyers also said Brillantes was conditioning the minds of his commissioners into accepting what still had to be proved as truthful.

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I can see the conflict of interest in this situation involving Brillantes and De Lima, who had established their reputation as private lawyers defending opposition candidates before their official appointments. What makes it quite distasteful even for citizens trying to be objective here is the fact that both officials have been quite vocal in ruling against the Arroyos even before fact could be established (recall De Lima presenting to the public the police character who alleged a break-in at the Batasan to plant tampered election returns in 2004, even before the latter had executed a sworn statement).  Now comes Brillantes calling on alleged collaborators of Unas, who may wish to have a change of heart, to come out in the open about the fraud---he’s giving no quarters for possible innocence here of the people accused by Unas, himself a shady character.
The behavior of the two top officials has made the investigation into the 2004 and 2007 elections kangaroo style and obviously following the administration’s script of putting away the Arroyos at the earliest instance---to doubtless help take away the heat from its poor handling of the massive floodings in Central Luzon.

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In the minds of many citizens, including this blogger, justice ought to be rendered without bias or conflict of interest. If there is clear evidence of tampering of votes in elections then the cheaters ought to pay for their crime. To my mind, however, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the over-emphasis on the 2004 and 2007 elections is being carried out in order to divert attention from more pressing problems involving the nation.
But what is important to establish at this point,  more than whether the 2004 and the 2007 elections were truly tainted, is to look into serious allegations of ELECTORAL FRAUDS committed in the May 2010 elections---the nation’s first automated election system (AES).  Since the 2010 elections many local protest cases have been brought before the Comelec (among the leading ones is the protest case filed by former Secretary Lito Atienza against Manila Mayor Lim, which is now into its second round)as well as before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the protest of LP VP candidate Mar Roxas against VP Jejomar Binay) and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), but nothing much has moved.

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One big reason is the obsession of the Comelec to investigate the 2004 and 2007 elections, but as computer expert Edmundo “Toti” Casino has noted in various forums, these two past elections should not count as much anymore as the 2010 elections, for several reasons. One is that the chief protagonist against GMA in 2004 is already deceased. But the more important reason, asserts Casino, is that unlike the 2004 and 2007 elections which were conducted and counted manually, the elections in 2013 and 2016 will be automated, if the Automation Law of 2009 is to be followed. Hence, argues Casino, all the problems brought about by the AES in 2010 are bound to rear their ugly head again---unless they are rectified.
But Brillantes, perhaps in his desperation to be confirmed by the LP-controlled Commission on Appointments, has chosen to resurrect the ghosts of the 2004 and 2007 elections---to nail down Arroyo, as per the much-touted plan of President NoyNoy---instead of paying attention to the 2010 AES problems.

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A group of citizens from various professions which professes to be non-political and calls itself the “Tanggulang Demokrasya”(or “Tandem” for short), has banded together to bring to the nation’s and officialdom’s consciousness the problems of the 2010 elections in the hope that these won’t be repeated in the coming  elections. Tandem has raised two highly objective reports. One was prepared by the Philippine Computer Society that comprises the country’s most prestigious computer experts, that revealed what it alleges to be the “clear and unmistakable failures” of Smartmatic, the vendor of the PCOS machines in 2010, and of the Comelec.
One of the most serious “failures,” said its Technical Working Group, was the total disregard by Comelec of essential safeguards in the 2010 elections as prescribed by the Automation Law.  These included the failure to use the already-bought UV lamps to detect fake ballots and to employ the crucial digital signatures both of each of the 42,000 PCOS machines and by the chief of each of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) in the country's various precincts. The digital signatures of the PCOS machines and of BEIs would have authenticated election returns. Moreover, the random manual audit that ought to have been conducted by a triumvirate group headed by the PPCRV WITHIN 12 HOURS from the close of polling precincts in SELECT PRECINCTS across the country materialized only in a very spotty manner TWO MONTHS after the elections.

There were horror stories of PCOS machine results that were ante-dated, such as those in Manila City Hall as Atienza stressed in his protest, or spewed results of elections FROM COLOMBIA, South America but found in a precinct in Pikit, North Cotabato (former Gov. Manny Pinol included this fact in his gubernatorial electoral protest against former Rep. Emmylou Talino-Santos). More intriguingly, the Comelec and Smartmatic consistently refused to make public or available to the local computer experts the source code, which is the bible of operations of the PCOS system.  
Another group that raised the alarm for 2013 and 2016 is the Global Filipino Nation Election Observers, which submitted a separate report reflecting onsite monitoring by a team of overseas Filipino and foreign professionals. Their report exposed the existence of a systematic mechanism for perpetuating electoral fraud, woven into the structure of the AES.  This group has challenged in strongly worded terms the LEGITIMACY of the May 2010 results.

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Months ago Tandem submitted to Comelec a petition to take serious cognizance of the problems Filipino computer experts and professional groups have raised concerning the 2010 elections, but Comelec, still preferring to pursue ghosts of the distant past, has just marked it “Noted.”  Now sufficiently alarmed, Tandem has taken it upon itself to organize a two-day conference/workshop tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 14 up to Saturday, Oct. 15, entitled “Unlocking the Secrets of the 2010 Elections,” to be held at the East Greenhills Association Conference Room, East Greenhills Subdivision, San Juan, Metro Manila, across from the Santuario de San Jose Church (pass through Gate 3 along Connecticut St., East Greenhills). Admission is free, but donations of any amount will be accepted. Noted computer experts will conduct the seminar. Let’s hope the media will cover this crucial conference/workshop.   

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