A view from the trenches
This article is not about management. It is not about business or economics. It is about politics, particularly the last automated elections. Why? It is because politics and elections are everybody’s business.
The papers continue to carry the arguments between Comelec and the AES Watch group. Was there a pattern in the 60-30-10 election result as posited by a mathematician from the Ateneo faculty, or was it merely the Principle of Large Numbers at play?
I am afraid the dispute will remain in the realms of debate. Comelec declared that the May 2013 election was 99.97 percent accurate based on the Random Manual Audit (RMA). But Namfrel placed a lower figure of 98.86 percent equivalent to 228 errors per 20,000 marks.
What was required was 99.995 percent accuracy rate, or 1 allowable error for every 20,000 marks.
It is, of course, not possible now to open all the ballot boxes and do a nationwide manual count. But that is not necessary since everyone would agree that it would be extremely difficult to orchestrate even automated cheating on a nationwide scale involving 77,000 precincts in 46,000 barangays.
How to answer then the question of whether the PCOS machines were tamper-proof or not?
Hopefully, this question may be answered at the local level with the election protests filed by 6 mayoral candidates in the province of Bataan.
The protests cite similar grounds—telltale signs of pre-programmed results, witnesses’ accounts of malfunctioning PCOS machines, statistical improbability of the outcome in numerous places, etc. And they plead the same prayer—that the boxes be opened and the ballots manually counted.
Some cited improbable results:
One municipality reported a turnout of 85 percent of registered voters. This was abnormally high since the town would have a turnout of only 62 percent in previous elections, including the presidential elections. Besides, the May 2013 election was a midterm election. (The province of Bataan, with an 85 percent turnout, was also reported as having the highest turnout in Central Luzon.) The people would like to know if indeed there were 46,000 ballots cast in the municipality from the 54,000 registered voters.
On May 13, 2013, at about 7 p.m., a candidate for mayor saw from the screen at the municipal grounds that the first transmitted results had him trailing his opponent by 1,000 votes in a barangay with only about 1,500 voters. He called his watcher at the precinct and asked if the transmission was correct. His watcher was surprised. The voting was not yet finished for the two PCOS machines. The first transmission was done only at about 8 p.m. while the second machine was able to transmit only at about 9:30 p.m. due to technical problems. So how could there have been transmissions made at 7 p.m.?
In another municipality, 17 PCOS machines were reported to be malfunctioning.
Only one political camp won all the elective offices: Governor, vice governor, all 10 members of the provincial board, both congressmen of the two districts, and all 12 mayors of the province. This has never happened in the political history of the province, irrespective of the popularity or unpopularity of any one party.
The result in a congressional race showed a uniform 60/40 ratio in 3 municipalities and 55/45 in 3 other municipalities in favor of the proclaimed candidate—in complete disregard of the political terrain.
What gave away the scheme was the inclusion of the hometown and bailiwick of the non-proclaimed congressional candidate among the municipalities with the 60/40 ratio.
Such crude work also showed in the results of election for vice mayor and councilors. A candidate for vice mayor did not win in any of the two barangays where he had been a resident. The votes he garnered were even less than the number of workers he employed. Another popular three-term vice mayor who had always won by a “landslide” in three head-to-head contests for vice mayor had to go down and run for councilor. He did not make it in the 8-member municipal council; he did not even make the 9th or 10th place. He placed number 11! And none of his 7 teammates was elected into the council. Again, this complete shutout of a rival political party has never happened before.
Any candidate for the provincial board coming from the biggest municipality in the 1st district would usually top the poll in his town. The votes of his townmates would often be enough to send him to the five-member board. But in the last election, the lone candidate from this biggest town not only did not win in the district—he did not even win in his town (he was number 6). To the surprise of the townspeople, all candidates from the rival camp but who were not from the town, took all the first five places.
A congressional candidate who was endorsed by the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) got the same number of votes in his town as his partymate candidate for governor but who did not get the INC backing. The members of the INC asked where their votes for their candidate for Congress went.
A disclosure I now have to make: I was one of the congressional candidates in the last election in Bataan.
Why did I not file a protest in the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET)? My answer is: I prefer to get at the truth as early as possible than get a chance to sit in the House in the last few days of the session (the HRET is now clogged with 55 protests). We believe that the filing of electoral protests by our mayoral candidates before the Regional Trial Courts would get a more expeditious hearing.
Our mission is to know the truth because only the truth will set us (winners, losers and voters) free. Because no one has seen the counting done inside the machine, even the proclaimed officials cannot affirm that the votes they received truly reflect the votes cast in the ballot boxes. It is only by opening the ballot boxes and counting the ballots manually, with watchers from protestant and protestee and accredited groups, will tell us if the electronic count was a true count.
The proclaimed officials cannot claim that the protestants are merely engaging in fishing expedition because their statements are verifiable. And it is only fair for the proclaimed officials to get the united support of the people if indeed the manual count will confirm the electronically transmitted results. But for as long the serious doubts are not dispelled, the people will remain divided because, as someone had said, “truth is the glue that bonds the people together.”
We all thought that automation is the answer to cheating in the manual elections. But unfortunately, the cases filed have not abated. Maybe there was enough time for rogue operators and technicians to perfect the art of electronic cheating since the 2010 automated elections. And already, there are now peddlers of such services for the 2016 elections.
If the doubts are not dispelled, the threat to our rights to electoral exercise becomes real. Who, in his right mind, would still run and campaign on a platform of good government? Why not just deal with the peddlers?
(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author was a three-term congressman of the First District of Bataan. He was also chair and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and, subsequently, chair of the Bases Conversion Development Authority until he ran for Congress in the last election. He is currently chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Nueva Caceres. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected] For previous articles, visit www.map.org.ph.)
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