Larrazabal: Comelec won’t allow poll failure for GMA power grab
By Ryan Chua
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will never allow failure of elections to happen, especially if it’s designed to let anyone perpetuate himself or herself in power, a commissioner said on Friday.
Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said speculations that failure of elections will happen to let President Arroyo serve longer as president have no basis.
“We won’t allow failure of elections to happen to favor anyone,” he said. “We simply won’t allow failure of elections to happen.”
Larrazabal added that although the poll body has had a past marred by accusations of fraud, corruption, and incompetence, “this is a different commission now.”
He also said the poll body has been working hard to ensure this year’s elections will be successful.
“The elections is bigger than PGMA’s administration…bigger than all the candidates combined. This is the future of the Philippines, and people should realize that,” he said.
Larrazabal also answered certain points of the latest study by Pacific Strategies and Assessment on the automated elections. The report criticized the Comelec, saying it is not prepared for poll automation.
ON DELIVERY OF MACHINES
– “All machines have been delivered. All machines have been tested.”
– “We’ll be having a testing and sealing of the machines at the municipality where the voting will be conducted … Three to seven days before the elections, you’ll know that the machine is accurate.”
ON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF VOTING SYSTEM’S PHYSICAL COMPONENTS
– “The testing of the machines was conducted at the Cabuyao warehouse in the presence of the Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM, DOST, and COA. … PPCRV was there to observe, political parties were invited to observe.”
– On why political parties were not present: “You can’t tell a person to do something if he or she doesn’t want to do it.”
ON PCOS MACHINES’ ABILITY TO RUN ON BATTERY
– “In Hong Kong and Singapore (OAV), the batteries are connected to the PCOS machines.”
– “We would suggest to the political parties to fly to Hong Kong and Singapore at their own expense to see the voting … The best way to see that it works is to just fly to Hong Kong and see that it works.”
ON LACK OF SOURCE CODE REVIEW
– The source code review and certification was done by US-based SysTest Labs, “one of the leading companies accrediting election systems in the world.”
-“We did a walk-through last February with representatives of political parties and some civic organizations. During the walk-through, we also gave them the guidelines for review. Some complained, some said it’s restrictive. The walk-though was just the start of the source code review.”
– Unfortunately, Larrazabal said, some groups like CenPEG did not attend the actual review and just kept complaining. Larrazabal said they did not even give suggestions on how the review should be conducted. “They just went there, has themselves interviewed, and left.”
– Source code is now kept in escrow at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
ON SWITCHING OF COMPACT FLASH CARDS TO RIG ELECTION RESULTS
– “The configuration of flash cards were done in the presence of Smartmatic-TIM, the Comelec, NCC, and CIA. There’s an audit of it. Even if you go to a ship where you buy flash cards, that flash card is useless (to rig election results) because it doesn’t have the files.”
ON POSSIBLE TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS, BLACKOUTS
– “What if on election day, buong Pilipinas mag-blackout? Will the machines work? Yes, because it has a 16-hour battery.”
– “What if mag-brownout sa munisipyo? Can they still canvass? They can. The canvass of the municipality has a laptop which can last four hours. If they run out of battery, you have a generator asset.”
– “Not all areas in the Philippines have (cellular) coverage. What do you do? There’s satellite transmission-BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) and VSAT (Very Small Aperture Transmission) to transmit data from areas that have no cell phone coverage.”
– “Can you manipulate the (electronic) results? You cannot manipulate it because it’s encrypted. Even if you do, you’ve already printed 30 copies of election returns at the precinct level. You have people going around town with the results.
ON TEACHERS’ TRAINING FOR BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS (BEI) DUTIES
– “They were already trained, tested,” he said, referring to training in March. Training was two days–lecture on first day; test and certification on second day.
– To reinforce what they have learned, “We will be giving them last-minute guidelines and instructions. IFES is coming up with pamphlets to be given to BEIs.”
ON SMARTMATIC NOT HAVING ENOUGH PERSONNEL
– “Smartmatic gave us a document that says that there are people needed for the positions vacant. They are oversupplied now.”
ON PRECINCT CLUSTERING CAUSING VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT
– “We don’t cluster barangays. We cluster established precincts. What will happen is that you’ll still be going to the same barangay elementary school. Probably in a different classroom but the same school.”
– He advised voters to look for their precincts as early as now by asking the local election officers or using the Comelec’s online precinct finder at comelec.gov.ph.
ON COMELEC’s FAILURE TO CLEANSE LIST OF VOTERS
– “Poll automation is not a solution to cleansing the list of voters. We’ve ordered election officers to manually cross out voters with multiple registration.”
– However, “The AFIS (automated fingerprint identification system) is ongoing. So there are steps.”