Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano questioned the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to reduce the number of transmission of election results from three to two, saying that this not only violates the law but also erodes the integrity of the election process and results.
As the vice chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES), Cayetano and the rest of the panel told the agency that at least three simultaneous transmissions to three servers should be maintained in the upcoming 2013 elections.
After a lengthy discussion, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes relented and said the commission will reconsider and change its decision after hearing the valid arguments from lawmakers and technical consultants.
The senator earlier pointed out that by reducing the number of simultaneous transmissions, Comelec is unwittingly sending the message that cheating can be expected because only limited parties will have access to real-time transmissions.
“We installed three servers in 2010 because of the 99.9% guarantee it provided. With just two servers, you will not have that. Having only two servers gives the impression that there can be manipulation in the 2013 elections,” he said.
The minority leader said that eliminating elections watchdogs such as the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) or National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as one of the three recipients removes another source for validating transmissions.
“Why remove the watchdog transmission? Removing the server for the watchdog removes the right of the people, especially the media, to monitor the results and to ensure transparency of the elections,” he said.
He countered Comelec’s claim that verification of results by a candidate can be easily done even with only two servers by pointing out that without a third server, national candidates will not be able to obtain the help of the watchdogs and will therefore have nowhere to go to counter-check the results and complain.
“The reduction of servers here will be a logistical nightmare for political parties and national candidates. It will be very easy for local candidates to post their watchers in the canvassing stations. But how about national candidates? Posting watchers all over the country because we have no third server to resort to for verification will be a massive undertaking for us,” he said.
At the start of the meeting, Cayetano stressed the need for Comelec to focus its efforts on critical issues he described as the “three crown jewels” of automated elections: (1) the reduction of simultaneous transmission recipients from three to two; (2) the lack of monitoring of National Printing Office’s (NPO) activities related to the printing of the ballots and the indicators that the winning bidder for the ballot printing is not technically prepared to deliver ballots per specifications; and (3) the failure of Comelec to submit the full list of the glitches of PCOS machines that it claimed to have already been fixed when it exercised its option to purchase.
“The mother of corruption is election cheating. We’ve seen that during the problem of legitimacy of the past administration,” he said adding that ensuring that these three Crown Jewels – machine, ballots and transmission – are safeguarded will eliminate the threat of electoral cheating in 2013.
He added that having a credible automated election system (AES) will level the playing field in Philippine politics.