Comelec junks parallel count
By Mayen Jaymalin
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – It’s official.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will only conduct a random manual audit of votes in the coming polls and not a full parallel manual count as demanded by some groups.
The decision sparked calls from various groups, including lawyers and business organizations, for street protests.
In a seven-page resolution, the Comelec denied for lack of legal basis the proposal to conduct a parallel manual count in all precincts for the positions of president, vice president, congressmen, governor and mayor.
“After having taken into consideration all the submissions of the various proponents, and after having considered the opinions of those who stand opposed, the Commission concludes that it cannot conduct a full parallel manual count,” the Comelec said.
“The attendant risks to the stability of the electoral system are too grave to be outweighed by the promised benefit of parallel manual count,” the Comelec said.
“Conducting a hand count of the ballots will open up the possibility of errors in tallying, as well as provide an excellent opportunity for the perpetration of fraudulent acts,” the poll body added.
Various groups have been calling on the Comelec to allow a parallel manual count to validate the results of the first automated elections in the country.
“The language employed by the proponents of a full parallel manual count indicates that a mere difference between the results of the hand count and electronic count will be enough to trigger a full manual count of all candidates virtually scrapping the automated election system,” the Comelec said.
The Comelec pointed out candidates might demand the scrapping of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) count and a shift to manual counting and canvassing once a discrepancy is raised.
It added that a full parallel manual count would be extremely vulnerable to error as well as to dagdag-bawas (vote padding-shaving).
James Jimenez, Comelec spokesman, said a mere discrepancy of 10 votes could trigger manual recount and a scrapping of the electronic results of the elections.
“This discrepancy can also be done by anybody by simply smudging the ballots,” Jimenez said.
“More than any consideration of cost and effort, is what makes the commission extremely wary of accepting the proposal for a full parallel manual count,” the Comelec said.
The random manual audit would cover a smaller number or precincts compared to the parallel manual count, which was being planned for 76,340 precincts nationwide.
“The fact that random manual audit takes place in such a relatively small subset means that efforts to safeguard the process from errors and the introduction of fraud will be more effective,” the Comelec said.
At Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said “we agree with the Comelec’s decision.”
“We will expect full and appropriate compliance with it by all parties concerned, and we continue to urge our countrymen to support Comelec and vote based only on what their conscience tells them—the two conditions for a successful and credible election,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the decision would allow everyone to focus “on getting the automated counting to work.”
“Everybody now can focus on their respective works to see to it that we are well prepared and ready for the first automated election,” deputy presidential spokesman Rogelio Peyuan said.
Bagumbayan presidential bet Sen. Richard Gordon also welcomed the Comelec ruling and lashed out at the Makati Business Club for floating a failure of elections scenario if a parallel manual counting is not carried out.
“We will join if there will be any protest actions,” Vitalliano Nañagas, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) vice chair on the national issues committee said in a telephone interview.
“Since the PCOS machines have not been pilot-tested before in an actual election as mandated by law, the risk of the machine making mistakes at the rate higher than that provided for (one mistake out of 20,000), is quite high,” a MAP statement read.
“We are gravely concerned that without such verification of the accuracy of these machines, the election may not be accepted by the people as the true reflection of their will,” it added.
“We are not going to take this sitting down,” MBC executive director Alberto Lim said in a separate interview. “I cannot tell you our next move yet.”
The Alyansa Agrikultura and the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) also appealed to the public to protest the ruling.
“I will protest in the streets. The Comelec is useless,” PBA president Simeon Marcelo said. “They removed the number one safeguard when they eliminated the system that gives the voter a slip of paper confirming who they voted for.”
“They can elevate the matter to the Supreme Court. I will join them if they do that,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said. – With Ma. Elisa Osorio, Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz, Aurea Calica, Rainier Allan Ronda, Sheila Crisostomo, Helen Flores, Mike Frialde