Monday, 17 May 2010 00:00
BY DAN MARIANO
The Automated Election System (AES) came out with the results of the voting last Monday in a way that stupefied the entire nation. Just hours after the polls closed, the AES began churning out election results at a rate that surprised even the system’s most enthusiastic proponents.
Here, at last, is the answer to the country’s election woes—or so it seemed. Even the most rabid detractors of the AES claimed they were only too happy to eat crow—ecstatic to have been shown to be wrong. Or were they?
Days later, however, hints of irregularity started to surface. Before the week ended, charges of electronic dagdag-bawas, or vote padding and shaving, began to resound in various parts of the country.
The reporting of election results seemed so incredibly fast that many of the losing candidates were stunned into inaction. They did not know what hit them.
Meanwhile, some of the election winners gloated in their victory, praising to high heavens the AES for validating their own pre-election projections of victory.
It all seemed too good to be true—and, in certain cases, the AES probably is.
Last week, former environment secretary Lito Atienza handed out to newsmen photocopies of a document, titled “Election Returns (ER) for Local Positions” from Clustered Precinct 3901383 – 0828A 0828B 0928C 0829A in Barangay 205, Tondo, Manila.
The ER showed re-electionist Alfredo Lim drubbing his rivals Atienza and former police chief Avelino Razon. Lim got 302 votes, Atienza 71 and Razon 67.
Lim’s vice mayoral partner Francisco Domagoso, a.k.a. Isko Moreno, was shown doing the same thing to his rivals, led by Atienza’s running mate Ma. Lourdes Isip Garcia.
This was the result in Tondo, as well as in many other parts of the Manila, despite pre-election surveys done by a respectable pollster that showed Atienza leading Lim by seven percentage points.
“According to the results generated by the PCOS [Precinct Count Optical Scan] machines, I was clobbered two-to-one even in my home district of San Andres Bukid,” he said incredulously.
When Atienza began complaining that he and his Buhayin ang Maynila party were victims of election fraud, they were pooh-poohed for “sour-graping.”
After all, it has long been said that in this country nobody loses in elections; they are only cheated. However, unlike other, similarly situated candidates, Atienza has been able to show proof.
On April 27, a City Hall employee blew the whistle on what she called was a plan to rig election results in the nation’s capital. Ronilda Reluya, a computer operator assigned to the city government’s Electronic Data Processing (EDP) unit, presented what she described as copies of fake election results in the First District of Manila.
The EDP is directly under the Office of the Mayor. According to Reluya, the fake election results, which showed a landslide victory for Lim’s slate, were prepared at the same office. She added that she personally witnessed how several City Hall employees put together the spurious documents.
Despite requests from Atienza and others for an investigation, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) all but ignored Reluya’s revelation.
It was at about this time that Atienza said he began to worry. Although he eventually secured the endorsement of the bloc-voting Iglesia Ni Cristo as well as other religious congregations and civic organizations, the former three-term mayor could not shake off the feeling of impending disaster.
Sure enough, the election results from the clustered precinct in Tondo and other parts of Manila indicated that Lim and his party had won by the proverbial mile.
A closer look at the documents, however, showed that whoever was responsible for giving Lim and his party a landslide victory had failed to cover their tracks completely.
Attached to the ER is a certification from the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) attesting that they “witnessed the voting of the precinct and that the votes obtained by each candidate appearing in these election returns are true as generated by the [PCOS] machine.”
The certification was signed by BEI Chairwoman Carolyn Estella, member Amparo Ongkiko, poll clerk Rosie Poral, watchers Madelyn Candao (LP), Rose Danica Dayrit (PMP) and Jesusa Tolentino (NPC).
The problem is that the BEI certification bore the time stamp, “Wed Apr 28 13:11:46 2010,” indicating that it was accomplished 12 days before Election Day!
Atienza told newsmen he was in possession of similar documents, evidence of what he called “prefabricated” ERs.
Atienza said that he plans to file a protest before the Comelec directed, not against any of his political rivals, but “against the process itself, against the AES.”
He said that he also intends to petition the poll body to complete its audit—via manual count—of election results in Manila as reflected in the PCOS machines in 30 polling precincts randomly selected in the presence of all the election stakeholders.
Atienza added that, while the documents in his possession pertain to apparent irregularities in Manila, he is ready to collaborate with other parties who feel they have been similarly victimized by “prefab ERs” in other parts of the country.
“Perhaps we could consider filing a class-action suit against Smartmatic-TIM,” he said, referring to the consortium that provided the technology, machines and technical personnel, which made AES possible.
Atienza also said that several weeks before E-Day he had been approached by “someone who claimed he could electronically manipulate the election results—in exchange for a huge sum of money, but I quickly dismissed the offer.”
He added: “Going by the lopsided election results in Manila, I can only surmise that the fellow was able to persuade some other candidates.”