LP now focused on guarding votes
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas II said the country’s first electronic voting system would be “a big shot in the dark” and as such they are now focusing on protecting the votes.
Roxas stressed that recent developments, particularly decisions of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), had been adverse to the LP.
Roxas said the LP had made a lot of representations with the Comelec regarding the automated election system but their appeals and suggestions had fallen on deaf ears.
Roxas said among their concerns was the refusal of the Comelec to allow an independent review of the source code that would provide the general instructions for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
He said the National Printing Office also insisted on installing its security marking on top of the Comelec’s UV security marking, which the PCOS machines could not read.
Instead, the Comelec decided to disable the automatic UV scanner in all the PCOS machines and opted to purchase and use 80,000 handheld UV lamps, the purchase of which is now the subject of controversy.
Roxas said the LP is particularly concerned about the uncertainty of the Random Manual Audit, which the Comelec said will only be done two weeks after the elections.
He said the LP also noted that the Comelec has issued an excess number of compact flash memory cards, the contents of which only the Comelec knows.
Roxas explained that the removal of the ultraviolet safeguard to ensure that the ballots are authentic had already compromised the integrity of the elections.
“The machine will not know whether what it’s being fed is a counterfeit or a genuine ballot. They have a stop-gap remedial measure, a handheld scanner, but they can scan one ballot and enter another ballot,” Roxas said. “They must think us fools.”
Aside from all these possible technical glitches, Roxas said the Comelec also went ahead with printing the ballots without removing the name of Vetellano Acosta, the supposed candidate of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan that the poll body had declared a nuisance candidate.
“When they declared Acosta a nuisance (candidate), they had just printed 10 percent of the ballots. It’s a simple software (adjustment), a few key strokes to have the rest of the 90 percent not to contain that name, why wasn’t it done?” Roxas asked.
He said Acosta’s name in the ballot was prominently placed on top of Aquino’s name, and this resulted in Nacionalista Party (NP) bet Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. with a column of his own.
Another alarming decision from the Comelec, Roxas pointed out, is the recognition of the coalition of the NP and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
He said even the NPC itself had denied any merger took place.
“This is another example of why the Comelec’s credibility is suffering. Because they themselves change their own rules,” Roxas said.
“There was a deadline for the registration of coalitions and in this instance, the NP and NPC failed to comply (with the deadline),” he added.
Roxas also noted the series of disqualification cases filed against local officials who joined the LP.
“The Comelec should not wonder why its credibility (is low),” he lamented.
Roxas said they were mapping out strategies to address electoral fraud, no-elections scenario and even possible failure of elections with the help of former defense secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz Jr.
“You know the pattern is anyone but Noynoy,” Roxas said.
The LP said this was understandable because Aquino has been the most vocal critic of the Arroyo administration of all the presidential candidates.
Roxas said the LP had also complained about the reshuffle of police directors particularly in the areas where they have allies.
In all management books, Roxas said any kind of conversion from one system to another should be tested and be open to scrutiny.
“I’m not being a doomsayer but here we are, going through this process for the first time, there are steps that could be taken to diminish the risk, reduce the possibility where fraud can happen… When you leave wide open gaps, obviously it will happen,” Roxas said.
“There are necessary steps, how come these are not assiduously being taken? Why is there such a cavalier attitude and every time you give a suggestion or recommendation, make a criticism, there’s no openness (or response on the part of the Comelec),” he said.