Locsin: May polls flawed
He won’t recommend automation in 2013
By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. Monday admitted to being mistaken in his rosy outlook of electronic elections, saying that he was against employing the automated system used on May 10 in future electoral exercises unless loopholes were plugged.
Locsin is the chair of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, which on Sunday released a report based on its hearings that painted a far from ideal picture of the recently concluded automated elections.
The hearings took up the complaints of local candidates who claimed that they lost because of electoral fraud.
Interviewed over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Locsin said Monday that cheating done under the automated system could be untraceable, unlike in manual elections where money and hard work could uncover a fake ballot.
Despite Locsin’s statements, others stuck to their championing of the automated election system.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, an active participant in the hearings of Locsin’s committee, said that none of the allegations of fraud were backed by concrete proof.
So as far as he was concerned, automation was a success unless evidence to the contrary would crop up.
“Until that would come out, I would certainly say automation was a success despite being from the opposition,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview, noting that he was a constant presence at the committee hearings, which focused on allegations of poll fraud.
He said the P7 billion spent for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines was money well spent.
Eating own words
Locsin acknowledged that he was eating his words.
“You realize of course that I’m swallowing the words that I said over the past 12 months. I really fought for automation. Well, I’m willing to swallow my pride,” he said over ANC.
Locsin said he was mistaken when he said that the voting equipment, known as the PCOS machines, could not be manipulated.
“I would say one thing: Fortunately, a lot of people believe me and I was wrong when I was boasting that the machine cannot be rigged. There were not that many people who tried to cheat with machines but those who did knew about it, did it,” he said.
Reset PCOS to zero
Locsin said vote-rigging could have been done by resetting the PCOS machines to zero and then scanning ballots again. This was known through the explanations of Smartmatic, the technology provider of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“They should have told me though that their machine was capable of being reset to zero. I have no idea it was that easy to do it. The reason also why none of us, including myself, ever thought about that is that the critics of automation kept focusing on other issues,” he said.
Audit logs also revealed that voting in some places began at 10 p.m., he said.
Locsin said Smartmatic’s explanation about the different date and time stamps on election returns was inadequate.
He said Smartmatic had assured him that the machine would record cheating, but then it later said that the different date and time stamps were of no moment.
If cheating was conducted, there was also active participation of the Board of Election Inspectors and the Comelec, he said.
“So I think, in the end, Director [Jose] Tolentino said it well: ‘Machines don’t cheat, it’s people who cheat and people can use the machine to cheat.’ As long as the people Comelec uses are cheaters, then they can cheat the machines,” Locsin said.
He also said cheating under automated and manual polls was very different, with manual polls providing a way to uncover concrete evidence.
“The difference between cheating in manual is that at the end of the road, if you have the money and the time, you can check whether the handwritten ballot is real or not,” he said.
“Whereas, in this kind of machine, all you have are shaded ballots. Now a shaded ballot that is falsely shaded and a shaded ballot that is genuinely shaded are indistinguishable from each other,” he added.
Locsin said that unless these concerns were addressed, he would not push for automated election in 2013.
“And my recommendation is that unless we are unable to plug all these loopholes, I would strongly discourage automated elections in 2013,” he said.