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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 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.  

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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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