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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, June 30, 2013

Chinese tell VP Binay: seeking clemency for condemned drug mule useless. Must PH fight for citizens who transgress other countries’ laws? Most drug mules have long lost their options to syndicates. NAIA face-lift should be sensible and functional, sans melodramatic flair. Tandem/Bagumbayan to file charges vs. two Comelec admins, PPCRV Chair Tita de Villa and Smartmatic-TIM before Ombudsman. More 60-30-10 charts.



Vice President Jejomar Binay was asked by Chinese authorities to back off from his earlier plan, on orders of President Aquino, to appeal to Chinese President Xi Jinping  for clemency on a Filipino drug mule’s impending execution this Tuesday. In stopping Binay the Chinese leadership's message is unmistakably clear: it’s useless at this point. 

The Philippines has been trying, with diplomatic encouragement from the US, to stand up to Chinese saber-rattling and militarization build-up in the West Philippine Sea, which our bully neighbor doesn't like one bit. Thus, its refusal to back down on the impending execution of the Filipino national is its way of retaliation. This leaves us even more off-balanced than before.

XXX

At the height of frantic PH efforts a few years back to save the life of a Filipino woman convicted to hang in China as a drug trafficker, a Japanese friend asked me why our government keeps engaging in such mercy mission periodically. He said there are also Japanese nationals caught in various criminal activities in other countries, but the Japanese government would not lift a finger to try to save them from punishment.

My Japanese friend opined that the assumption has always been that these indicted citizens know what they’re getting into when they transgress laws of the host country, that they deserve punishment. He felt that the Japanese government has no business humiliating itself internationally by pleading for the lives of its citizens convicted abroad. 

XXX

I thoroughly agree with this view---and apparently outgoing Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto is of the same mind: leave the drug mules to their fate.  Politically it’s brave and gutsy of Sotto to publicly utter these words.  I also find this self-imposed task of our interceding government distasteful and humiliating for our people.

I recall that when we were in Guangzhou in December 2010, a PH consular official told me there were over 100 Filipinos languishing in that  city’s prisons for drug-trafficking, and looking after their welfare has kept the consulate busy.

XXX

By way of explaining our position to my Japanese friend, however, I stressed that our national psyche is different from that of the Japanese---that we are, as always and in everything, more emotional and that our government would be perceived as too pitiless and heartless---a thoroughly exploitable political disaster---if it does not seek to reverse a Pinoy’s conviction abroad.

Recall that the Ramos administration teetered on the brink of enormous political disaster over the Flor Contemplacion hanging in Singapore and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Roberto Romulo had to be sacked to appease the populace's anger over it. Contemplacion was meted capital punishment for slaying a fellow OFW. 

Recall too, that when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was on a state visit to Spain years back, a Filipino national was due at the same time to be executed in Kuwait for a crime against its citizen. This report reached King Juan Carlos of Spain who was a good friend of the Kuwaiti Emir and before anyone realized it, His Majesty called up the Emir to plead for the life of the Filipino convict. It became the highlight of PGMA’s state visit.

XXX

But there’s another angle I failed to consider until my driver spoke about it. He said that quite possibly many of those caught as drug mules had gotten involved with drug syndicates early on in their lives, due to their dire poverty. At some point perhaps they may have wanted to call it quits, except that these syndicates wouldn’t allow it---the alternative could be to find their family members killed.

The drug business is no laughing matter and from reports, syndicates are getting more powerful and insidious, and vicimizing younger and younger schoolchildren. What's government doing about this?

XXX

Reports say that NAIA 1 is scheduled to undergo a P2.8 billion facelift in preparation for PH's hosting of the APEC Summit in 2015.  The architectural renovation will be undertaken by Leandro Locsin and Associates, the firm that constructed NAIA decades ago, while interior designers Kenneth Cobonpue and Budji Layug have volunteered to undertake the interior design for free.

I have several comments.  Cobonpue is known as the designer to the stars such as Angelina Jolie and Layug has his own reputation too. But a word of caution ought to be stated here.

The NAIA facelift has to be regarded as temporary inasmuch as our present premier airport with its single runway has to be transferred to Clark at some future date. But this can only be done if the hideous traffic to and from Metro Manila to Clark can be rendered more manageable. This means, as in all modern cities, INTERCONNECTIVITY by more efficient mass transports such as trains, buses and LRTs such as one sees in HK’s New Territories and other areas; without such mass transport passengers are destined to miss planes in Clark. 

XXX

What we need is a facelift that should put a premium not so much on melodramatic flair but on creating functional designs and clean facilities. Throw out the dirty carpets at NAIA 1, install better lighting, construct clean fully functioning toilets (sans smell, the ubiquitous plastic tabo, artificial flowers, brooms and mops on display, etc.---and please, running water, no drums or pails).

My model is not Singapore’s Changi Airport whose orchid gardens we cannot copy, but Hongkong’s International Airport, a.k.a. Chek Lap Kok Airport--- no nonsense, antiseptically clean and very functional.

XXX

Tanggulang Demokrasya and Bagumbayan-VNP Movement of senatorial candidate Dick Gordon will file a complaint this Wednesday before the Ombudsman for violations of the AES Law by the Comelec of the 2010 elections under former Chair Jose Melo and the Comelec of the 2013 elections under Chair Sixto Brillantes, PPCRV Chair Henrietta de Villa and officials of Smartmatic-TIM led by Cesar Flores.

The violations are all enumerated in the complaint. But more telling as far as citizens are concerned are the notorious 60-30-10 charts of the 2013 elections in various provinces and cities that Tandem professionals and IT and Math experts have painstakingly captured from data labored over for many nights and days. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. As promised earlier, here are more charts:

Barangay New Era, Quezon City






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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Days after elections Brillantes declared he’s willing to open all ballot boxes to show there's no fraud. Now, confronted by 60-30-10 linear pattern all over country, especially in 21 Mindanao LGUs (Tandem: the “smoking gun”) Comelec Chief demands P200 million from complainants before he oks. manual count. He should charge Smartmatic whom he paid P1.8 billion of taxpayers' money for lousy PCOS machines.



Last May 19, six days after the May 13 mid-term elections, Ateneo math professor Lex Muga first raised in his FB page his observation about an "interesting pattern” of 60-30-10 in favor of Team Pinoy senatorial candidates---which immediately caught the nation’s imagination. Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes, reacting to Dr. Muga’s hypothesis, was quoted in a newspaper five days later as dismissing this “pattern.”

Not only that, Brillantes was also quoted as “willing to have all the ballot boxes in the country opened to show that there was no fraud.”  Stressing that he was staking his reputation on the fact that no one programmed it, he opined that, “In fact, the final evidence would be if we open all the ballot boxes in the Philippines. I’m willing to make a bet that 98 (or) 99 percent of the ballots and the PCOS would have the same results.”

XXX

After the June 25 press conference sponsored by civil-society group  Tanggulang Demokrasya (TanDem), however, where IT experts presented  massive fraud in big cities all over Luzon and the Visayas, but especially in 21 LGUs in Mindanao---the “smoking gun” in the electoral cheating---Brillantes now says he’ll allow a manual count of all votes only if the complainants fork across P200 million to cover costs of a recount! 

Nang nabuking siya, he now resorts to blackmail in reverse.

The nerve of this man. He paid Smartmatic P1.8 billion in taxpayers’ money for those used machines, some 18,000 of which had malfunctioned last elections. He also paid the AES technology owner, Dominion Voting Systems, a whopping $10 million (your taxpayer's money and mine) to finally yield the controversial AES source code , but this proved useless as it came a few days before the elections, and the IT experts and political parties had no time at all to review it.

Now he has the temerity to ask patriotic citizens whose only concern is to safeguard the integrity of the ballot to cough up P200 million. He should charge this to Smartmatic whose glib sales-talk he was gullible enough to buy. 

XXX

At last June 25’s presscon a technical working group (TWG) led by Herminigildo “Jun” Estrella and Solidarity for Sovereignty advocate Adolfo Paglinawan, with invaluable inputs from Dr. Muga and former Comelec IT Chief Ernie del Rosario, presented indisputable findings from around the country, many down to precinct level, establishing the mysterious 60-30-10 pattern from the 1st-16th canvass--- in what looked like pre-programming to favor Team Pinoy.  



Moreover, in this latest set of studies the TWG detected an unmistakable “dancing pattern” between Team Pinoy and UNA. The two blocs basically maintained the detected 60-30-10 linear arrangement, but in addition they also kept a consistent but complimentary peaks-and-valleys pattern---where Team Pinoy went up UNA also went up, and where the former plunged the latter also went down. Incredibly the two lines never intersected, or as Paglinawan mischievously put it, “they never stepped on each other’s toes, like skillful cha-cha partners.”  

Cagayan de Oro (stretched out)
LP and UNA votes per precinct
(Note the synchronized “dance” of the data points in each precinct and the
absence of data crossing from LP’s to UNA’s domains;  an impossibility in a real election)
Davao City 
LP and UNA votes per precinct

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The “poll fraud detectives,” as I like to call Estrella, Paglinawan, Del Rosario et al, concluded that from the PCOS machines the election returns (ERs) were transmitted directly to the Transparency Server at Comelec Central. This was in direct violation of transmission sequence as mandated by the AES Law, RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, which provides that from the machines ERs are to be transmitted to the city/municipal consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) first, before they were to be sent anywhere else.

The rationale for this very specific transmission sequence is that if ERs were sent to the city/municipal CCS first, “any attempt to tamper the results would involve 1,600 servers in the national contests.” Whereas, by sending them directly to the Transparency Server at Comelec Central, “ it would only involve ONE SET OF PEOPLE TO CO-OPT/COERCE" (emphasis mine). 

XXX

And that is what happened, opine the poll fraud detectives of AES Watch and Tandem: somewhere between the PCOS machines and the Transparency Server the ERs were “short-stopped” and they suspect that manipulation in the form of “pre-loading” of data occurred in the Server. 

The poll fraud detectives note that when the number of ballots counted reached 12 million (23%) while the number of clustered precincts was “only (?) 11,000 (14%)," canvassing was stopped on May 14. When it resumed, the returns were “batched” or “grouped” by provinces, which, as Ado Paglinawan stressed, was anomalous since the votes should have been received by Server on a “first-in, first-out” basis---not to mention that batching opened ERs to "human manipulation."

XXX


Results from Canvasses 1-16 all showed the 60-30-10 pattern, which Estrella likes to describe as “parang mga palito ng posporo ang itsura.” But as he and IT professor Edmundo “Toti” Casino pointed out in another forum, this uniform pattern failed to consider various factors, such as the political landscape of each area, e.g., the bailiwicks of various politicos, as well as geographical and archipelagic realities such as the 8-12 hour crippling brownouts in Mindanao and the botched-up Sabah issue, which were gnawing at P-Noy's popularity there.

Said Estrella: this pattern is not only statistically improbable, it’s statistically impossible.”

Paglinawan pointed out that “masyadong nagmadali ang mga operators ng Comelec, doubtless pursuant to its chief’s desire to finish the elections fast. In the process, they forgot their “Systems 101.” For instance, he pointed out that while there should be a maximum of, say, 1,000 voters per precinct, at 23% in there were already 8,000 votes per precinct.  

Which was doubtless why counting was stopped on the third day as total would otherwise have reached 250 million votes!

XXX

Other IT practitioners invoked the Law of Large Numbers as a way to explain the 60-30-10 pattern, but AES Watch experts shot that down by citing that RANDOM transmissions from 76,000 precincts direct from PCOS would make that pattern possible indeed. But such transmissions direct from PCOS in 16 BATCHES of provincial/city clusters rendered the LLN Law “impossible.”

But the biggest problem for the IT experts and us citizens is the fact that the results of the May 10 and 13 automated elections are INCONCLUSIVE for one major reason: the Comelec disabled the chief security feature of the PCOS machines---the digital signatures of the machines themselves as well as those of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) of each precinct.  As Paglinawan and Estrella put it, as a result of this disabling in the two automated elections, we didn’t know where the ERs being fed into the Transparency Server were coming from! 

In other words, we didn't know who were truly elected in those elections. 

Lawsuits are raining on Comelec Chief Brillantes’ head and those of his commission, and piling up before the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman. These agencies of justice and the law should act on them with dispatch, but sadly they haven’t moved. Obviously the removal of CJ Renato Corona was also part of the grand scenario. In the meantime, as senatorial candidate Richard Gordon has appealed, the leading lawyers of this country in Philconsa  should help out, as the future of our democratic processes is at stake.  


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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Clean antiseptic Singapore shrouded in haze while we have floods. Militant party-list groups make overtures about joining minority for effective fiscalizing, but are they only targeting couple of juicy chairmanships? Where Makabayan swings its vote for Minority Leader would be crucial. First, fake returns, now fake proclamations from fake board of canvassers in Baybay City?


A blanket of haze over antiseptic Singapore

The above photo says it all in the current contradictions in the tiny island state of Singapore: a rabid No Smoking in distinct areas, but in the background its proud skyscrapers are hardly visible through a deadly haze that has shrouded the state in the past two weeks.

The haze was caused by the burning of huge hectares of forest lands in the big island of Sumatra in Indonesia, in preparation for the planting of palm oil. Singapore, directly in the path of the burnings, caught all the smoke, resulting in a thick blanket of haze expected to last some months.

The Singapore government is quite angry about the haze and has complained to the Indonesian government, but the latter retorted that many of the corporations that caused the burning are Singaporean-owned. Now the two nations are talking about the problem, which is sensible.

XXX

As of yesterday, the pollution standard index (PSI) reading, which measures the air quality, had already breached 400 (anything over 100 is considered dangerous).  The more meaningful PNI2.5 index similarly breached 100 and is now at 270.

Singapore is one of the world’s strictest in adhering to environmental laws, but now it’s on a virtual shut-down, as supply of masks has run out and everyone is advised to stay indoors, especially the sick and elderly.

A multinational executive working in Singapore put its predicament quite vividly:  “For a country which relies on outdoor life, from family picnics through to tourists and Sentosa, one can see its suffering in so many people’s eyes, tears of sadness.” 

Singapore is indeed so antiseptic, clean and orderly that an environmental problem like the haze would be so tough indeed for its people to handle.  Inevitably one is encouraged to make comparisons: how would the Filipinos, so used to putting up with so many tough environmental problems, oftentimes simultaneous, handle a problem like that?

Civic leader Lynn Gamboa of Bacolod, commenting on the internet, said it succinctly, “Singapore has the haze. We have the floods.”  Indeed, we have many more problems.

XXX

News reports indicated that militant elements in the House of Representatives, led by party-list groups under the “Makabayan bloc,” are contemplating splitting with the LP-led majority in the House.

Talk is that the militants are thinking of joining the Minority whose leadership is currently being fought over by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, president of Lakas-CMD, and come-backing San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, who won under a local party, Partido Magdiwang. Minority Leader Danilo Suarez is “graduating” as three-termer, and who between the contenders the seven-member Makabayan bloc swings its vote to would be critical.

XXX

Former Rep. Satur Ocampo, who heads the Makabayan bloc that counts Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, was quoted as saying that if his group goes minority “we’ll feel freer and more effective in speaking out and taking action, unrestrained by alliance considerations.” 

When I read this report I was actually glad, because I feel that many crucial issues facing the country could be aired in Congress with the help of the militant groups, especially after one militant leader was quoted as saying the party-list bloc would sponsor an investigation into the PCOS machines and May 13 electoral fraud in the 16th Congress.  I felt that the left-wing party-list groups would be the best to handle this issue since the LP-allied district representatives cannot be expected to move against Malacanang and its subaltern, Comelec.

We saw how an overwhelming number of House members were led by the nose in the RH issue, thanks to the PDAF dangled to them; but it was also the Alliance of Concerned Teachers' Rep. Antonio Tinio who exposed the Palace bribery in the Manila Standard, which was never denied by Malacanang nor the solons. 

XXX

I checked out this report about militants splitting from the LP coalition with a veteran member of the House, however, and he readily shot down my enthusiasm by saying, “Don’t bank on it.” He claimed that the eve of an incoming Congress is always season for fierce competition for committee  chairmanships--- and the militants are no different from the district reps.

My source noted that the militants remember only too well how An Waray Rep. Bem Noel got the chairmanship of the powerful Accounts committee in the outgoing Congress, so now they’re salivating to get something as big.  “Nagpapa-precio lang ang mga yan.”  

XXX

In addition, there’s the central fact of political life that if the militants forsake the LP coalition and join the minority, they could lose their P70 million annual PDAF---just like what happened to the Arroyo brothers and former Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay in the outgoing Congress.  Are they as idealistic as Mitos?

Besides, his analyst points out, the Makabayan group remains terribly jealous of its keenest rival, Akbayan, whose members enjoy juicy posts in the administration, led by Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, Commissioner on Human Rights Loretta Rosales, Anti-Poverty Chair Joel Rocamora and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Tomasito Villarin. Hindi magpapahuli ang Makabayan sa Akbayan.

(Next: the battle for oversight committees with their huge budgets).

XXX

Readers will remember that I wrote several blogs ago about the 38-year old UNA candidate for mayor of Baybay City, businesswoman Malot Veloso Galenzoga, who, with the support of the religious and the academic community there, courageously challenged 83-year old reelectionist LP mayor Carmen Loreto Cari of the powerful Cari/Petilla dynasty of Leyte. I had termed the situation in this biggest city of Leyte as the microcosm of the country’s depraved political system, especially of the ills of the dynasty system.

I reported here that two days after the elections, with only 25% of voting results transmitted electronically, transmission to central server was suddenly stopped and the Comelec BEIs began transmitting manually from various precincts. And in full violation of the AES Law and the Omnibus Election Code that states that only electronically transmitted results can be the basis for proclamation of a winner, Cari was proclaimed  as having won  by what Malot claims is an illegally composed Board of Canvassers---led by a certain Susan Collamar, against Comelec Resolution no. 3848.

Malot immediately filed for failure of elections with Comelec and demanded new elections in Baybay.

XXX


Indignation rally in Baybay City vs. Mayor Cari
It was at this point, claims Malot, that her opponent's  dirty tricks department  got to work: A week or so later, she received what appeared to be a genuine proclamation of her as winner of the Baybay mayoralty race, signed by no less than Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes and attested  by the other commissioners.  Great rejoicing erupted in Baybay City over this and Malot’s followers, including a number of academic institutions, began hanging tarpaulins of support---to celebrate the end of the 32-year “dictatorship” by the Cari clan.

But the communication from Comelec turned out to be FAKE again, and Malot’s supporters suspect it was churned out by the Cari camp to make Malot look like a power grabber. In fact Mayor Carmen Cari was quoted in a national newspaper as warning her youthful opponent that she’d take her and her supporters to court if they continue "to confuse the people about the real results of the elections."

When news spread about the fake Comelec Board of Canvassers and the fake Malot proclamation document, the academe, religious, peasants, workers and other sectors staged a peaceful but emotional indignation rally at City Hall---the first ever such rally staged vs. the 32-year Cari dynasty. It culminated with Fr. Patrick Paraiso decying the alleged fraud, massive cheating, vote- buying and terrorism of the Cari era.

The Comelec should act with dispatch on Malot’s pending protest case, if only to calm down roiled political emotions in Baybay. But would it have the guts to go again a super-entrenched dynasty with strong Palace connections?



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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

As a child I had vivid memories of Manila streets turned into huge sea, but many decades later, politicos still playing blame game re floods, when it was the Palace that cancelled Laguna Lake dredging project. AES Watch members sue Smartmatic and Comelec before Ombudsman. Piñol asks disenfranchised voters to forward complaints on PCOS



It seems that the 152nd birth anniversary today of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was hardly noticed due to one big factor---the floods.

Everyone’s talking about last Monday’s deluge and how myriad folks were caught up in the horrible four-hour traffic on EDSA that night. What was particularly striking in some friends’ stories was how motorists sought to avoid driving into deep pools of floodwaters on EDSA, deliberately stopping at their edge and waiting for traffic to ease up first before moving forward---doubtless to avoid drowning their engines. Ganoon kalalim ang baha.

Such motorists' tactics, however, contributed to the hideously snarled traffic. 

XXX

I have vivid memories as a young child watching the flooded street in front of our home along Sta. Mesa Blvd., Manila with my many siblings, our legs dangling from our second-floor ventanillas, as people sailed up in bancas in the converted sea. Over the years since Mayor Antonio Villegas’ time I remember hearing politicians quarrelling over flood control projects, denouncing corruption therein and blaming one another for inefficiency, etc. 

Many decades later they’re still playing the blame game.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras sounded truly pissed off in an interview this morning as he sought to deflect the blame from the Cabinet and his boss the President.  Almendras blamed the informal settlers who throw garbage all around, clogging the water docks, the politicos coddling them, etc., etc.

There’s also news that the President ordered sanctions imposed on local executives who would allow informal settlers to once again squat along the esteros and other waterways. But some wise guy on FB argued that P-Noy is to blame, for he raised the hand of those very same local execs in front of their constituents, the informal settlers, in the recent elections. 

XXX

Secretary Almendras is not really succeeding in deflecting blame---for a major reason.

As Manila Times’ Rigoberto Tiglao pointed out in his column last Sunday, the Aquino administration threw out the flood control project in Laguna de Bay that could have significantly mitigated this perennial problem.  The P18.7 billion Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project contracted by the Arroyo administration with the 150-year old Belgian dredging firm Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ) involved the dredging of some 4.6 million cubic meters of silt and waste of Laguna de Bay, to enable it to take in floodwaters from Metro Manila, with help from the deepening of the 7-km. Napindan Channel in Taytay.  

What’s more, the project featured a concessional loan, with Brussels providing an outright P7billion grant which, as Bobi pointed out, would have been the biggest development aid that country would ever have given us.  

But five months into his term, President Aquino threw out this contract with little explanation beyond stressing that it was studded with corruption, having been contracted by the Arroyo administration, to the consternation of the Belgian company. Unfortunately the Palace offered no alternative solution to the flooding problem.  

XXX

In a previous column I wrote about how the Belgian King was so disturbed by the cancellation and the Belgian Prime Minister tried to seek reconsideration, mainly because it was good for us Filipinos, assuring that everything was above board with this contract.

On the other hand, Tiglao noted that the Bangko Sentral and P-Noy’s Justice Secretary Leila de Lima checked out this project and found it ok, while his officials “have been unable to produce any single evidence of graft involving the project." 

 He also pointed out that the unilateral cancellation of the Belgian project could result in P6 billion of taxpayers’ money lost, as the government has to pay very soon the P420 million penalty for cancellation of the BNP Paribas Fortis bank loan---amid a suit against the government filed by the Belgian company at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).  

XXX

This unilateral cancellation in mid-stream is admitted by the foreign chambers of commerce here to be among the reasons (along with the Fraport dispute over NAIA 3 dating from the Erap administration and the cancellation by the Aquino administration as well of the Arroyo contract for steel ports with the French Matiere Co. ) why foreign direct investments have failed to come into our country---unlike the way they’re pouring into Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia and the rest of Asean.

With this dispute that the government is involved with in an international court and the gargantuan fees it will pay foreign law firms, it might have been better if it had just gone ahead with the Laguna Lake dredging.

XXX

Individual members of AES Watch, the umbrella organization of IT experts and other professionals that monitored the two recent elections, have urged the Ombudsman to investigate two Comelec administrations under Sec. 40 of the law creating that office. One is the Comelec under former Chair Jose Melo during the 2010 presidential elections and the other under Chair Sixto Brillantes in the recent 2013 elections.

The AES Watch member-complainants, led by former VP Teofisto Guingona, accuse the two Comelec Chiefs and their fellow commissioners of graft and corruption for alleged conspiracy in the approval and use of the “inefficient and highly suspicious” PCOS machines---thereby placing in grave peril the sanctity of the ballot in both elections. As Fr. Joe Dizon, co-convenor of AES Watch, put it, millions of voters were disenfranchised last May mainly because of the 18,000 PCOS machines that malfunctioned.

XXX

Former North Cotabato GovEmmanuel “Manny” Piñol
Significantly Smartmatic’s officials, led by its Asia-Pacific President Cesar Flores, were also implicated in the court suit, and rightly so, for it sold lousy equipment to the gullible  Comelec officials.  Former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol’s testimony against the PCOS machines is only one of legions of complaints against those damned machines;  and the way suits promise to rain on Smartmatic, it would need more than just the ACCRA Law Office to defend it. 

Manny Piñol---who earlier in this election conceded defeat to reelectionist Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, but had second thoughts after complaints from his followers began flooding his campaign HQ, and PCOS cheating became a raging national issue---asserts that “the very essence of the right to vote as protected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Philippine Constitution is violated whenever a PCOS machine rejects a ballot filled up by a qualified Filipino voter.” 

In the last elections, he said he almost suffered the fate of thousands of qualified voters whose ballots were rejected outright by the PCOS machines. Pinol said he persisted in feeding his ballot into it and it was only on the third try that the machine accepted it.  


XXX

Piñol related that in New Antique, Mlang, North Cotabato one of his supporters whose ballot was rejected three times insisted that the feeding into the machine be continued, until on the 15th try it finally accepted his vote. “But what about those who did not persist in doing so?" 

Manny Piñol asserted:  “There is no law which says that those whose ballots were not accepted by the PCOS machine after three attempts shall be disqualified from voting; that ballots which were shaded beyond the circle opposite the candidate’s names shall not be counted; that voters whose dirty hands smudged their ballots shall be disqualified from voting." 

XXX

Yet all of these happened in the 2010 and 2013 automated elections, Piñol stressed---so that it’s now time for citizens whose ballots were rejected and whose votes were not counted to come forward and file their complaints. He said these will all be consolidated into a suit which he intends to refer to legal experts who will take the matter up with the Supreme Court---"so that in the next elections the monster called the PCOS Machine will no longer be used." He asks all complainants to forward their names and addresses to Atty. Rene Alexis Villarente at renealexisvillarente@yahoo.com.

Time for action indeed.




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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who among local candidates can file complaints about vote-buying when perhaps there’s hardly anyone with clean hands on this issue? Lex Muga needs more SOVs to look into ‘linear pattern’ across the country. Brillantes says accuracy rating found by De Villa’s RMA is 99.995%, even before its task is finished. He’s contemptuous of Filipino people’s intelligence


Candidates at all levels are without exception required by the Omnibus Election Code to file their statements of contributions and expenses with the Comelec, including those who lost the elections. 

 An interesting query in this connection: did local candidates include in their statements the amounts they spent for vote-buying? The fact is that there's probably hardly any local candidate who did not buy votes and many commentators have noted that the amounts spent in the recent elections increased far more than at any other time in the past.  

XXX

As in past elections, vote-buying was limited mainly to the great masses of the electorate and the upper classes registered shock and dismay/disgust at the depravity to which the masses had sunk as they converted their votes into commodities for sale to the highest bidder. But actually it's the political ruling classes that corrupted the electorate, capitalizing on the voters' poverty in order to entrench themselves in power. And the Comelec contributes to the corruption by looking the other way.

Could anyone imagine that in an obscure town in Northern Samar the going rate for local votes ranged from P7,500 to P10,000 per vote? 

The sister of a losing congressional candidate in a city south of Manila recounted to me how she saw a very long procession of people on election morning proceeding to a big empty lot along the main road.  Curious, she was told that these folks were being escorted by followers of a mayoralty candidate into that empty lot, where they were to receive a certain amount for their votes.  Alarmed, she called up the local Comelec official about the anomaly, but the latter just told her to file a complaint.

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The problem is that, as election lawyer Romulo Macalintal stressed to me, all too often it’s the losing candidate who publicly expresses disgust for the electoral transactions in his locality, when in fact this candidate also bought votes except at a lower price---which explains his or her defeat. The problem is that both winning and losing candidates are in pari delicto, which is Latin for “equal fault.” 

In pari delicto, as Wikipedia points out, is a legal term to indicate that “two persons or entities are equally at fault, whether the malfeasance in question is a crime or tort.”  As per Wikipedia:  “the phrase is commonly used by courts when relief is being denied to both parties in a civil action because of wrongdoing by both parties. The doctrine is similar to the defense of unclean hands, both of which are equitable defenses.”

In other words, as Atty. Macalintal put it, “the court will not entertain you if you come with dirty hands.” And which politician has clean hands in this day and age? Hence, no complaint.

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Dr. Felix “Lex” Muga
Photo by: Joel Paredes
I spoke to Dr. Felix “Lex” Muga of the Ateneo Math Dept., who chairs the Mathematical Sciences Division of the National Research Council of the Philippines, one of the advisory councils of the DOST.  Dr. Muga is credited with projecting the 60-30-10 “linear arrangement” exhibited in various areas in the recent senatorial elections. He had looked at the 1st to the 16th canvass in the elections as well as the consolidated voting picture of the various regions, and presented them in graph form---and voila, this linear pattern.

I queried him on other areas he and his team had studied since then, and he cited various cities of Mindanao, notably Bislig, Tandag, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos, as well as some areas of Western Visayas and the NCR.  He said the same 60-30-10 pattern emerged in these areas, with just slight variances not significant enough to divert from it. Muga said this uniformity that disregarded factors such as traditional bailiwicks challenges the credibility of the PCOS-conducted elections.

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I told him that the public appreciates the results of his study, so that he and his team should continue it until they have graphed results of the entire country. It has become a patriotic duty on the math scientists' part, to reinforce our faith in the electoral process. 

Dr. Muga stressed that he and many other math scientists from various schools are ready to continue, but they need to get down to the Statement of Votes (SOVs), the tallies of votes from the precinct level that are consolidated into COCs at the municipal/city levels.

Dr. Muga said that as per RA 9369, the Automation Law, digital files of the elections should be made fully available to the public, but they're not. In fact, he laments that a full 18% of the votes remains unaccounted for and from Comelec Chief Sixto Brillantes' pronouncements they won't enter into the national tally anymore  (assuming 75% voting attendance, this means effectively disenfranchising some seven million voters---BOC). 

Even the Random Manual Audit (RMA)---required by law to be conducted right after polls close in at least one precinct per  each of the 234 congressional districts across the land---has only finished audit in 161 precincts more than a month later.

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The variance between PCOS machine results and the RMA count, stressed Dr. Muga, could lead to a miscount attributable as errors of the PCOS machines, and this could affect especially tight races, e.g., the mayoralty race in Manila could really be “statistically tied” between Alfredo Lim and Joseph Estrada.

Lex Muga stressed that there should be a PARALLEL MANUAL COUNT to settle the credibility issue once and for all, but he admitted that there could be a question of management, e.g., how many teachers would be involved in the recount, a budget, etc.?

In an earlier interview with a media outlet, Lex lamented that “the PCOS sorely lacks---and the Comelec failed miserably to ensure the presence of---the safeguards against fraud that should have squelched easily all doubts about the credibility of the last exercise, which linger one month after the polls.”

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Namfrel Sec-Gen Eric Alvia
I checked out with Namfrel Secretary-General Eric Alvia the matter of producing SOVs that Dr. Muga and his team badly need to confirm the existence of a linear pattern for the rest of the country. Alvia said the problem is that most SOVs and COCs are inside the various ballot boxes, together with the ballots. He recalled that Namfrel had verbally requested copies of these aggregated documents from Comelec, and it had agreed to give the watchdog hard copies after proclamations of winners were made; but to date Comelec has not complied with this request.

Going down to the SOVs is imperative if we are to remove all doubts about the credibility of the elections. Note, for instance, that Namfrel covered 141 precincts and processed 126 of them, and in these the watchdog had noted that accuracy rating of the PCOS machines was lower than 92%. As Sec-Gen Alvia noted, that’s lower even than the accuracy rating of the 2010 exercise and certainly lower than the 99.995% accuracy rating demanded by Comelec from its machines-provider Smartmatic in the contract.

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On the other hand, note that Comelec Chair Brillantes has virtually preempted the results of the RMA being conducted by the triangular group headed by PPCRV Chief Henrietta De Villa---by saying that the accuracy rating of those PCOS machines in the RMA check is 99.995%.  In other words, right on the nose of the law’s requirement.

Wonderful, except that the RMA by De Villa’s group has stood UNFINISHED at 161 out of 234 precincts. In the 2010 elections, De Villa's group failed to finish the RMA even after two months, and yet it again bagged the same job for 2013. But now it's again running late in completing this job and yet its finding DAW, according to Brillantes, is an accuracy rating on target down to the last contracted digit.  

He's contemptuous of the Filipino people’s intelligence.


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