Comelec prepares for manual audit
By Mayen Jaymalin
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is preparing for a random manual auditing of elections results, according to Henrietta de Villa, head of the poll body’s committee on random manual audit.
She said part of the plan is the deployment of an additional 3,500 public school teachers to ensure the accuracy of random manual auditing.
De Villa said the committee has recommended the creation of a special board of election inspectors to undertake the manual audit.
The Comelec has rejected calls for a parallel manual canvassing of poll results, saying it is no longer necessary since a random manual audit is enough to do the job.
The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) insisted yesterday that parallel manual counting of votes is not an impossible task for the Comelec.
PBA head and former ombudsman Simeon Marcelo stressed that preparations for manual counts in all precincts for five elective posts could be completed in less than five days.
“Yes, it’s not as simple as buying vinegar in the grocery store. It’s as simple as counting money the way bank tellers do,” he told The STAR in reaction to a statement from Comelec spokesman James Jimenez over the weekend that a manual count was “almost impossible” at this point.
De Villa said she agreed with the Comelec’s position that a parallel manual count would defeat the purpose of automation and would be tantamount to putting together two systems: manual and automated.
She also said the Poll Automation Law does not mention anything about having parallel manual counting.
De Villa, who also chairs the church-based poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting or PPCRV, said the recommendation for the creation of SBEIs is now awaiting Comelec’s approval.
She explained that fatigue had been a very big factor that had affected the accuracy of manual election system in past elections.
“But if we will have the SBEIs instead of the regular BEIs, the teachers will not be very tired and they would exhibit fresh look, fresh minds in conducting the random manual count,” De Villa said.
Last week, the Comelec decided to increase from one to five per legislative district the number of precincts to be subjected to the random audit.
A total of 1,145 clustered precincts will be subjected to random manual audit involving three BEI members. She said the involvement of 3,435 members of the SBEIs would be necessary.
Marcelo said it would only take a day or two to print additional election returns and three more days to deliver them to polling precincts all over the country.
“If only Comelec will agree, it’s not impossible at all. We just want parallel manual count for five positions – president, vice president, congressman, governor and mayor – and that will just take an hour,” he explained.
Marcelo said their proposal is the last external check to verify results of the precinct count optical count (PCOS) machines.
Meanwhile, local business leaders are scheduled to meet with the Comelec today to discuss the group’s proposal for a parallel manual count for president, vice president and mayor.
The Makati Business Club has urged the public to support the parallel manual count for an honest elections.
With the elections two weeks away, the group, which included Bishops Oscar Cruz and Deogracias Iniguez, called on the Comelec to rule on the matter immediately and not to wait until April 29.
Meanwhile, Malacañang called on critics yesterday not to destabilize Comelec, adding that it is in the final stages of election preparations.
He said the Comelec would need all the support from the public to ensure its success.
“What we believe in is the law that mandates an automated counting of votes. If there would be different results from the two (automated and manual), what would be followed is the results from the automated count,” Olivar said.
“We can’t be shifting from one mode of counting to another. We must learn to respect the law,” Olivar said.
Meanwhile, former president Joseph Estrada said the automated elections should be done in urban cities while far-flung areas should adopt the manual count. “Even in the US, they have not perfected the automated system, how much more here and right now, in Mindanao, there is brownout almost everyday. There could be a 24-hour brownout on the election and this might result in a failure of elections,” he said.
In Davao City, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino senatorial candidate and spokesman on poll automation Joey de Venecia III said Comelec’s rejection of parallel manual count might actually compromise the credibility of the automated system.
“It is puzzling that while the Comelec and Smartmatic officials broke out the champagne for completing the printing of official ballots several days ahead of their deadline, they choose to ignore multi-sectoral calls for a parallel manual count that’s precisely meant to validate that the untested precinct count optical scan (PCOS) system works,” De Venecia said.
“Has the digital dagdag bawas system been set up?”
De Venecia was among the politicians who arrived in Davao City to attend the 60th birthday celebration of evangelist Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name congregation.
De Venecia said that a Princeton University study has found that PCOS machines could be infected with a malicious ware that could carry out automated vote shaving and switching.
Worst, he said, the malware has self-erasing capability thus it cannot be detected easily.
He said the possibility of the malware infecting the PCOS machines may be counter-checked by manual counting.
“It is plain to see that if the count for president, vice-president and mayor are accurate, then the people will accept even the counts for councilors and congressmen,” De Venecia said.
With Jess Diaz, Edith Regalado, Jose Rodel Clapano, Edu Punay, Paolo Romero, Ma. Elisa Osorio, Rainier Allan Ronda.