VICE presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged Filipinos Monday to observe “eternal vigilance” to protect the sanctity of their votes as he took to task the Commission on Elections [Comelec] for turning a blind eye to the massive cheating that marred the May 9 elections.
“What is at stake today is the sanctity of suffrage, which great leaders teach us must be guarded at every turn,” Marcos said in a privilege speech Monday. “Many attribute the phrase: ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’ to Thomas Jefferson. This is so very true.”
Without naming him, Marcos also took a swipe at President Benigno Aquino III, who had declared before the elections that he would do all in his power to stop Marcos from winning the vice presidency.
“We need leaders who are less interested in promoting their own interest, and their own party, and more interested in leaving behind the enduring example of free and fair elections,” said Marcos.
He said his call for eternal vigilance was not about him being cheated in the vice presidential race, but concerned all voters.
“We must, all of us, guard against coming intimidation, manipulation and even fraud by forces of the political status quo,” the senator said. This was truer today than it was two weeks ago, he added.
“This odious legacy of this government and the allegations surrounding it cannot be left investigated. Evidence cannot be left unreviewed. And truth cannot be left unspoken…Because truth is the lifeblood of eternal vigilance,” said Marcos
He told his colleagues in the Senate not to hold “false confidence” that the nation had free and fair elections if it did not.
“As captured by netizens through photos and videos, we see the same sad story in the Philippines. Vote-buying has become ever more rampant, as have been the acts of terrorism, threats and intimidation,” said Marcos.
Marcos said they have received reports of information and communications technology (ICT) companies that were engaged by candidates to boost their chances in winning the automated elections.
He said parts of the package included access to official voters database and vaunted “magic laptops,” which they claimed could tap into the Comelec’s main server.
Marcos said he played down all the alleged offers as being hearsay until he saw it happening before his own eyes on Election Day.
He recounted that at 7:30 p.m. on May 9, Smartmatic’s Marlon Garcia, a Venezuelan national, admitted entering a new “script” or computer command in the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting transparency server.
He pointed out that Garcia was earlier charged with electoral sabotage for doing the very same thing during the 2013 elections.
“Note that this change was done not before the elections, not when they were doing the pre-testing, but during the transmission of results from our canvassing boards nationwide,” Marcos said.
After this particular act, Marcos said, his votes slowed down and the votes for another candidate started to accelerate—at an unprecedented and linear rate of 45,000 votes for every additional one percent of votes counted.
“What are the chances that this computer programming change can be linked to the odd pattern that emerged during the PPCRV quick-count? How sure are we that the computer change did not open windows of opportunity for trap doors, trojan horses, worms, or time-bombs to enter the system?” asked Marcos.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista claimed the programming change in the transparency server was just a “cosmetic change,” and that it did not affect the elections results.
“What proof do we have of this? We have not seen any,” said Marcos, who slammed the poll body for its inaction despite proof of cheating.
“Every day netizens post new photos and videos of election fraud. Police found thousands of pre-shaded ballots in an abandoned warehouse in Alaminos, Pangasinfan. Unused SD cards were found in a trash can in Kabangkalan, Negros Occidental. There is video of election fraud in Datu Ampatuan, Maguindanao. And yet, Comelec has done nothing. They would rather concentrate on immediate proclamation in the hope that the uproar will die down soon after,” he said.
In the same speech, he urged Congress to immediately proclaim presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, but aired his strong reservations in the canvassing of results of the vice presidential elections due to electoral irregularities on the two fronts—on the ground level and in the field of computer science and programming.
Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, however, said that Congress, sitting as the national board of canvassers, would not “look beyond the face of the CoCs (Certificates of Canvass)” despite allegations that some of these may have been tampered.
Questions about the COCs would merely be noted, Gonzales said, as lawmakers are set to proclaim the president and vice president on June 7, or three days before Congress adjourns.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, poll watchdog Mata sa Balota and the Marcos camp urged Congress on Monday to investigate the irregularities that occurred in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, before it begins the national canvass.
Ridon specifically wanted Congress to order an investigation into reports that some 30 consolidated counting servers used to generate official CoCs had been shipped to warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on May 9 and “fixed” to rig the election results.
“Congress should not ignore this report that came out in The Standard. The veracity of the account should be ascertained, and the 30 servers in question should be subjected to an independent forensic examination, even before both chambers of Congress begin the national canvassing this Wednesday,” Ridon said.
Asked what the national board of canvassers would do if the results of the official CoCs failed to match with the electronically transmitted votes, Drilon said: “I don’t want to preempt. There are rules on that. I would like to emphasize this: We cannot look beyond the face of the CoCs.”
So as not to delay the proceedings, Gonzales said the canvassers would give priority to uncontested CoCs.
George Garcia, counsel for Marcos, demanded that the Commission on Elections make public what transpired on May 9 at the National Technical Support Center in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where the CCS were allegedly brought for fixing after these failed to boot.
“We hope the Comelec will make public the list of provincial CCS or whatever CCS which were brought to Laguna for alleged repair due to non transmission or failure to receive transmission. A satisfactory explanation as to why and how is strongly urged,” Garcia said.
“This is one of those instances casting doubt on the purity of the recently concluded elections. The Filipino people deserve to know,” he added.
Mata sa Balota convener Rodolfo Javellana Jr. urged the IT experts, who were based in the NTSC, to come out in the open and reveal the truth.
The Mata sa Balota vowed to file more charges against the officials of Comelec, Smartmatic and poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting for allegedly not ensuring the conduct of elections would be honest, clean and transparent.
Bautista said the poll body would investigate the allegations about the servers, but also cast doubt on the credibility of The Standard because it was owned by the Romualdezes.
In a radio interview, Bautista admitted that he had yet to read the report published in The Standard, but warned the public to be discerning against some media outlets that release unverified claims of election cheating.
“These newspapers, look at who owns them. Because sometimes, their coverage of the news is slanted,” Bautista said in Filipino on radio dzMM.
He then asked several groups who were claiming of election cheating to provide evidence of irregularities and rigging.
He said they were hearing reports of poll cheating, but no one was able to prove the allegations.
“We are open to whatever evidence or proof that shows there was actual cheating. It is easy to make allegations, but every time we ask for evidence, that’s where they are lacking,” Bautista said.
On Monday, The Standard reported that IT experts hired by the Aquino administration said 30 consolidated counting servers that tabulated results to generate official CoCs were shipped to a Comelec warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, to be “fixed.”
The IT experts said some 2.65-million votes were generated for four contested provinces, including the vote-rich Davao del Sur and Pangasinan.
Bautista had refused to comment on the story to reporters covering the Comelec, but opted to be interviewed on the radio program.
Also on Monday, the Marcos camp said it would file criminal cases against Smartmatic executives and an IT representative of the Comelec in connection with the unauthorized change of the script in the transparency server on the evening of May 9.
Jose Amor Amorado, Marcos’ lawyer, said the respondents would be charged with violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
The respondents are Smartmatic executive Marlon Garcia and project director Elie Moreno; Neil Banigued, a member of the firm’s technical support team, and Rouie Peñalba, Comelec information technology officer.
Amorado said the law makes punishable offenses that affect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems including “illegal access of any part of a computer system without right.”
He said they have enough evidence to pin down the Smartmatic executives and the Comelec IT representative based on public documents and the pronouncement by no less than the Comelec that their interference in the system was not authorized.
“It is res ipsa loquitor—the thing speaks for itself,” Amorado said.
Earlier, Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz filed a complaint against the respondents for violation of the Automated Election Law. With Joel E. Zurbano
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