Leaders of the private sector today asked the Comelec to put guidelines in place to help ensure the credibility of the elections by fulfilling an agreement made during a five-hour dialogue they had with Comelec officials last April 16.
In a letter to Comelec Chair Jose Melo and the Comelec Commissioners, TransparentElections.org Chair Gus Lagman and Alyansa Agrikultura Chair Ernesto Ordonez asked the Comelec to fulfill an earlier agreement that would help ensure transparency and accountability at the canvassing centers during the election period.
Prior to the April 16 meeting, they had heard a plan that Comelec would mandate only the posting of the canvassing center vote totals (Certificate of Canvass-COC) without the precinct vote totals (Statement of Votes- SOV’s). Lagman said this would not allow the comparison of the vote count seen at the precinct level with the precinct vote recorded at the canvassing center. In addition, this would not allow the verification of whether the total canvassing center vote recorded had accurately included the vote count in each precinct. “Without this safeguard Comelec had earlier agreed to, we have a sure formula for dagdag-bawas,” Ordonez said.
To ensure that this agreement is implemented, the proponents recommended that the agreement’s implementation procedure should be included in the Comelec’s General Instructions (G.I.’s) for the canvassing centers. Since this has not been done, the agreement’s implementation is now severely jeopardized. The letter was submitted to the Comelec Head Office after an 11a.m. multisectoral ecumenical prayer service held during the ongoing 24 hour vigil at Plaza Roma in front of the Comelec office in Intramuros.
In an earlier letter, the proponents had stated that the 1.5% sample recommended by Comelec to be used for the manual audit was grossly inadequate. They suggested that the sample be increased to come as close as possible to the original 100% precinct audit they had originally recommended, but only for three positions. They also disagreed with the description earlier given in an official Comelec document that they were suggesting a “full parallel manual count”, when they were actually recommending that only three positions be counted, which would have take only a maximum of three extra hours to execute per precinct. They now say they are willing to decrease this number to two or one, if necessary.
The Movement for Good Governance (MGG), the country’s foremost non-partisan, multisectoral citizens’ movement, is launching a pioneering election tool for voters called the Scorecard that will enable citizens to vote wisely in the upcoming May elections.
The MGG Scorecard is the first of its kind in Philippine politics. It is a simple and effective guide to evaluate candidates based on three key leadership criteria: effectiveness, empowering, and ethical leadership.
The criteria was initiated by MGG using diverse local and international governance benchmarks from Gawad Galing Pook, the World Bank, and the UN. The scorecard was finalized with the assistance of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), the country’s leading human resource organization.
“This is the first time, not only for the Philippines, but other democracies, where citizens and voters are empowered to choose their leaders wisely,” said Prof. Solita Monsod, MGG Chair. “This scorecard helps Filipinos regardless of social class and background to evaluate candidates in terms of whether they are fit for public office. It enables voters to critically think through all the information, jingles, and gimmicks thrown at them by political campaigns.”
The MGG Scorecard (see attached) uses three equally vital leadership criteria and simple guide questions. It looks at a candidate’s effectiveness, or their ability and track record to perform their duty; empowerment, or a candidate’s ability to unite and engage stakeholders to develop and implement policies and programs that meet genuine needs of the populace; and, ethical, which affirms the need for the candidates integrity and character.
“These three complementary traits are all necessary for our country to be governed as we deserve, and the scorecard allows voters to grade candidates on each criteria using simple guide questions. It also ranks the candidates’ total scores — on a basic 1 to 3 score — to determine who among them meets these traits the best,” says Dr. Milwida Guevara, MGG founder and Gawad Haydee Yorac Awardee.
The scorecard will be shared through MGG’s coalition in the remaining dates of the elections to enable Filipinos to make 2010 count. MGG partner PoliticalArena.com has provided both free mobile and internet access for citizens to add to their information to evaluate candidates effectively to make it easier for citizens to compare facts and actual data on candidate’s performance, personal character, and leadership traits.
“As a pioneering tool for the Filipino voter, we aim to use and continue sharing this not only in 2010, not only in future elections, but also in helping citizens develop a mindset for identifying and choosing excellence in their public leaders. In doing so, they transform themselves into an empowered, vigilant, and demanding citizenry that is vital to making democracy and development work in the Philippines,” Guevara added.
The scorecard may be downloaded from MGG partner websites and will be disseminated to key cities and communities up to election day.
Ernesto Ordonez, chair of Alyansa Agrikultura, a farmer-fisherfolk coalition composed of 42 federations and organizations representing all major agricultural sectors, today said, they collected the signatures of five presidentiables to throw their support to the snowballing demand for a 100% precinct manual count. The agricultural sector comprises 40% of the voting population, or 16 million voters.
“We have the signatures of five presidential candidates declaring support for the position recommended by Information Technology professionals last April 13. These presidentiables are Former President Joseph Estrada, Senator Jamby Madrigal, Eddie Villanueva, Nicanor Perlas, and J.C. delos Reyes,” Ordonez said
Ordoñez explained: After the voting has been finished, the Board of Election Inspectors will manually count the votes in 100% of the precincts for president, vice president, and a local official selected at random such as governor, mayor or congressman/congresswoman. This count will then be compared to the computer count.
This same position was endorsed by the Management Association of the Philippines, representing the business community, and the Alyansa Agrikultura, representing the farmers and fisherfolk on April 14 and 15, respectively.
An excerpt from the statement said: “If the counts are similar, then the assumption is that the computer count is valid and not rigged. The votes for all positions can then be transmitted as the basis for the proclamation of the winning candidates. But if the votes are different, then the computer count can be assumed to be not valid and possibly rigged. In these cases, the count of all positions will then be undertaken. The manual count will be the basis for the proclamation of the winning candidates.
“For the sake of credible elections and our democracy, we strongly recommend that Comelec adopt this position.”
“Next week may be the last chance for Comelec to take two decisive actions that will leave a legacy to be admired and respected, rather than criticized and disparaged.” This was the press statement read by Alyansa Agrikultura Chair Ernesto Ordonez.
The Alyansa Agrikultura is a farmer-fisherfolk coalition composed of 42 federations and organizations representing all the major agricultural sub-sectors. This is the largest voting sector, composed of 40% of the electorate or 16 million voters. Because of this, the Alyansa had been previously invited to three Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) hearings on Automated Election.
The Alyansa statement said that the first key action is to adopt the 100% precinct parallel manual count for the president, vice president and mayor or governor, as had been suggested by the IT professionals last April 13. If the manual count is similar to the computer count, then the automation can proceed with an average delay of only three hours.
However, if the manual count differs significantly from the computer count, there is a great probability that the computer was rigged. In these cases, there will be an additional four days to manually count all the votes and transmit them. Nevertheless, the ensuing seven-day time frame to complete the process is only 1/6 of the 42-day period under the old system. Jaime Tadeo, Rice Council of the Philippines chair, said, “This slight delay is well worth the benefit of enhanced confidence in the elections that will take place.”
The second key action is to implement what the Alyansa Agrikultura had previously proposed during the January 27 Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on automated elections: to make transparent the canvassing of the votes with a check and balance system. This means that the canvassing center must show not only the total vote count in the center (Certificate of Canvass or COC) but also the component vote subtotals (Statement of Votes or SOV).
The Automated Election System (AES) Watch had previously recommended that Comelec should install projectors in every canvassing center to show both the COCs and the SOVs to detect discrepancies between the precinct-reported SOVs and those shown at the canvassing centers. In the same way, the totals in the COCs can be verified as correct once the individual SOVs are likewise shown in the canvassing center. Last April 14, the Management Association of the Philippines advocated this move in a press conference on automated elections at the Asian Institute of Management.
Rodolfo Niones, chair of the KASAMNE onion grower association, pointed out that the estimated P500 million cost of implementing these two actions was a very small part of the P7.2 billion allocated for the AES, and less than the P700 million that was almost spent for the election folders. Ruperto Aleroza, chair of Pambansang Katipunan ng Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK) and also chair of Kilusang Mangingisdan (KM), the nation’s biggest fisherfolk coalition, concluded: “That is a small price to pay for a credible election and an admirable Comelec legacy for others to follow.”
A group of information technology (IT) professionals yesterday expressed fears of an “automated Garci” or high-tech cheating in the May 10 elections and called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider their proposal for a simplified parallel count in order to ensure the polls’ credibility
The IT experts, who spoke to media in a press conference initiated by the Movement for Good Governance (MGG), said recent developments have made many people wary and fearful of the possibility of a partial or even a total system failure, noting that the systems and processes that are in place are not fail-safe.
“While we agree with this observation, our concern today is more focused on the high probability of massive cheating in selected areas involving national, local and even party list positions,” said Augusto “Gus” Lagman, lead convenor of TransparentElections.Org.
Despite their apprehensions, he and other concerned IT professionals have chosen to cooperate with the Comelec “to give the Automated Election System (AES) a chance to succeed.” Some members of the group have been involved in the crafting of the Automated Election Law.
Ma. Corazon Akol, president of the Philippine National IT Standards Foundation (PhilNITS) and former president of the Philippine Electronics and Telecoms Foundation (PETEF), said Filipinos may be lulled into thinking that the May 10 elections would be free from cheating because it will be using “high tech” machines and computerized systems.
“The truth is that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, the operating and transmission programs and the whole system itself can be rigged, without our even knowing how or where the new and sophisticated “dagdag-bawas” scheme might be perpetrated,” she stressed.
The group presented several reasons for saying there is “grave and present danger” in the exercise of the Filipinos’ right of suffrage in the coming May 10 automated elections.
They cited a high probability that, a system “fully administered and constrolled by government insiders and their vendors” (quoting an election watchdog in the ISA), without adequate safeguards and full transparency, can contain hidden commands for the software and/or computer to execute.
They said these commands can be inserted in any of the computer programs contained in any of the PCOS machines or the computers that will be used to transmit the election results from the municipality and provincial sites. Pre-set results stored in the Compact Flash (CF) cards, tampering of digital results during transmission and results manipulation through canvassing programs are “not only feasible but also highly probable,” they added.
For expediency’s sake, they said, many safeguards set in place by law, as defined by “our colleagues in the IT industry,” were disregarded, removed or replaced with vulnerable alternatives. They noted that the pilot testing of the system was not done; the source code review, as strictly defined by law, was not granted; on-the-spot verification by the voter and the UV detector were disabled; and, controlled access features were disregarded.
Ma. Cristina Coronel, president of the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA), explained that their proposal for a simplified parallel count would only involve counting the votes for the president, the vice president and mayor.
She said the group’s time and motion studies indicated that it would only take about three hours for a precinct with 500 voters and five hours for a precinct with 1,000 voters to do the parallel count. She also gave assurance that it would not constitute a drain on government resources.
“Unless we do a full count at all precincts, of at least the top two positions, we cannot say with confidence that the coming elections in May is free fro any form of cheating,” she added.
The group appealed to Comelec chairman Jose Melo and the rest of the commission to sit down with them for a dialogue soon, as “time is running out,” so that together they can implement the recommendation and agree on solutions to both legal and logistics concerns.