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Poll machines fraud-free, say Comelec, Lente

Despite encountering numerous glitches, the Commission on Elections on Thursday said that the Vote Counting Machines used in the May 13 mid-term polls elections performed accurately.

The COMELEC and Legal Network for Truthful Elections, its partner organization for the random manual audit, said the VCMs performed at an overall accuracy rate of 99.993 percent, much higher compared to the previous elections where overall accuracy rate was at 99.8840 percent.

Based on 700 of 715 clustered precincts, the COMELEC and Lente, along with the Philippine Statistics Authority, said RMA of the votes cast in the May 13 elections showed nearly 100-percent accuracy compared to the results of the VCMs.

According to Commissioner Luie Tito Guia, head of the RMA committee, despite technical glitches, the May 13 polls was considered “successful and fraud free.”

This was also supported by both Lente and the PSA, which said the RMA has shown that the VCMs used during the May polls were accurate.

The COMELEC said ballot boxes from randomly selected areas in the country had been checked and showed the accuracy of the votes counted by the VCMs.

Poll spokesman James Jimenez said the variances in voters’ shading of ballots include those who did not shade the oval in full, or ballots with shadings below the machines’ threshold.

Under the Automated Elections Law, the random manual audit is required in at least one clustered precinct for every congressional district. The law also says a 99.995-percent accuracy of the VCM count should be met.

Meanwhile, the COMELEC said that there was no massive disenfranchisement of voters during the conduct of the May 2019 polls even if 961 VCMs and over 1,600 Secure Digital cards malfunctioned during Election Day.

Jimenez said that the malfunctioning VCMs and SD cards were all replaced in time and that the 75- percent voter turnout during the May polls which is higher than the average for midterm elections proved that the voters’ choice was reflected on the ballot.

“The average percentage of Filipinos who do not cast their vote during midterm polls was 30 percent prior to the 2019 polls. All the [malfunctioning] VCMs and SD cards were immediately replaced,” he said.

Jimenez described the elections as successful.

At a hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to discuss the automated elections, Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan, questioned the COMELEC on the seven-hour delay in the transmission of election results on May 13.

“I asked so many experts on IT and they have a thousand different interpretations of what could have happened. Just earlier, they were saying perhaps there was a bug. We don’t know. Is there an effort to find the root cause of this glitch?” he asked.

The Liberal Party filed motions dated May 16 and May 21 asking the Comelec to explain the seven-hour glitch, defective VCMs and corrupted SD cards, among others.

 “We had two manifestations, on May 16 and May 21, as the canvassing was ongoing. We have not received any response from you. So may we have the courtesy of being responded to?” Pangilinan said.

“I know you’re busy, and in fact it’s part of our manifestation, but let’s respond to these manifestations. We do not want to get this feeling that the opposition is being ignored,” he said.

Jimenez said the poll body will prepare a response and a report.

The opposition senator also raised concerns about the malfunctioning VCMs.

“Why was it not tested to the maximum? Up to what level was it tested, because we don’t want something like this to happen again. And therefore obviously, the testing was not effectively or properly undertaken. Because if you tested it properly, then this seven-hour glitch should not have happened,” Pangilinan said.

The COMELEC’s Technical Evaluation Committee Chairman Peter Banzon mentioned logistical challenges in testing the VCMs.

“We couldn’t find a place where we could install all the VCMs, basically. The only time all of them would be online would be on election day,” he said.

“Come 2022, another glitch could happen because you won’t have the opportunity to put all the 90,000 in place? So what’s the point of testing if we’re not sure the test will, in fact, be an assurance that it would work?” Pangilinan said.

During the same hearing, COMELEC revealed that 1,051 voting machines malfunctioned during election day, with 2,246 SD cards that were found defective, particularly in Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4A (Southern Luzon), 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and the National Capital Region.

The COMELEC, however, stressed that some of the corrupted 2,246 SD cards had been replaced. With the exact figures not yet available from the poll body, the senators computed as much as 2.2-million votes might have been affected.

“When you have to wait five hours for the replacement, will you still vote? These are the realities on the ground. So if you are talking 2.2 million or 3-million voters who had to wait for five hours for the SD card, will they still vote? We don’t know. Maybe they would have gone home,” Pangilinan said.

“So this has to be avoided. Because this is a disenfranchisement in that sense of a number of voters and that affects the overall results. And therefore it has to be checked. It has to be looked into. And [we have to know] how must this [can] be avoided in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, the camp of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged the JCOC to recommend that the Department of Foreign Affairs cancel the passport of former COMELEC chairman Andres Bautista to compel him to return to the Philippines and hold him liable for his role in the alleged perpetration of massive electoral cheating in 2016, in conspiracy with the COMELEC’s technology provider Smartmatic.

“Our people are now demanding justice for the electoral sabotage committed by Smartmatic in conspiracy with corrupt COMELEC officials to thwart the sovereign will of the people in 2016 national elections,” Marcos lawyer and spokesman Vic Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez cited reports that Comelec chairman Bautista had met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang where he allegedly confessed to the alleged conspiracy between Smartmatic and corrupt Comelec officials to steal the victory from the President by shaving five million of his votes in favor of another presidential candidate.

READ: Dump Smartmatic—Rody

“It is the solemn duty of our lawmakers investigating the sins of Smartmatic and COMELEC to ensure that all personalities who figured in 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections be made to account and held responsible for all their actions, prevent cheating and fraud from again undermining the coming 2022 presidential elections and guarantee to the Filipino people that it shall be free from foreign intervention and manipulation,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, more groups are backing the call of President Duterte for the COMELEC to dump Smartmatic as supplier and technology provider in the 2022 elections due to various violations of Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law by the Venezuelan-owned company.

Danilo Arao, convenor of Kontra Daya convenor, described the recently concluded midterm elections as the worst election ever conducted by the COMELEC and its partner Smartmatic, due to technical “glitches” and malfunctioning of its vote counting machines that resulted in a seven-hour delay in the transmission of election results.

READ: Group calls for transparency

READ: Poll machines malfunction: Koko seeks probe

Topics: Commission on Elections , Vote Counting Machines , Legal Network for Truthful Elections , Philippine Statistics Authority
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