Benjie Oliveros | Has the Country Achieved a Clean, Honest, and Democratic Elections?


MANILA — Despite the long queues and the glitches of some PCOS machines, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is all too happy that the first automated elections pushed through without the failure of elections, the no proclamation, or massive disenfranchisement scenarios being predicted by election watchdogs and government critics. By 10 p.m. of May 10, Comelec Chairman Jose Melo could barely conceal the smile on his face when he was reading out the unofficial tabulated election results, a mere three hours after voting precincts have been declared officially closed. The day after, on May 11, the Comelec began declaring the winners of local elections and presidential candidates have been conceding defeat to Noynoy Aquino. By May 12, the Comelec announced that less than four percent of election results have yet to be transmitted.

This is definitely faster than previous elections. The transmission of results in a precinct takes a mere one to three minutes each for the three recipients. Not only are the tabulation and transmission of results fast, it is also smoother. Gone are the days when poll watchers used to crowd teachers who were reading the votes one ballot at a time and tallying the results on the board. In fact, the task of poll watchers has become boring. Also, the tension in precincts arising from strong and even violent reactions of losing candidates after all votes have been tallied has become a thing of the past.

However, the elections are far from being flawless, even if we do not consider the long queues. First, cheating through the infamous dagdag-bawas or vote padding-vote shaving could still happen during canvassing at the municipal, provincial, and national levels, especially if the difference in votes between two or more contending candidates is not that big. This is why vice presidential candidate Jejomar Binay is warning about the probability of him being cheated during canvassing. Cheats do not care if there are discrepancies between the tally of votes in all the precincts and the results of the canvassing at the municipal level; or if there are discrepancies between the certificates of canvass at the municipal level and that of the provincial level up to the national level. Former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was caught on tape assuring Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that everything could be fixed during the canvassing of votes. Also, in 2007, the number of party-list votes in Maguindanao and the rest of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao exceeded the number of registered voters.

Second, while election automation was able to fix what is happening inside the precincts, it was not able to solve the politics of guns, goons, and gold outside of it. Clashes between the armed groups of rival politicians still occurred. Likewise, cases of harassments and intimidation committed by soldiers against members and supporters of progressive candidates and party-list groups have been recorded. Voters, especially in provinces where the power of coercion and intimidation of political warlords and the military still holds sway, continue to live in fear and their right to vote effectively suppressed. Vote-buying also still reared its ugly head during the May 10 elections.

Added to this, Malacañang-sponsored party-list groups were still able to get Comelec accreditation and have crowded the party-list elections.

More important is the fact that automation did not and could not alter the elite-dominated, money-operated character of Philippine politics. One has to spend billions of pesos to have a fighting chance in the race for the presidency. It would take hundreds of millions to conduct a formidable campaign for senator. And no less than tens of millions are spent to win in local elections. Thus, except for a very few exceptions, only scions of political cum landlord clans could run and win in local elections. Only members or representatives of big landlords and big business could run and win in the race for senator, vice president, and president. In the case of senators, there are a few exceptions such as actors or actresses, who, nevertheless, must have the resources or the support of people with the resources to run a decent campaign. As for progressive candidates, they must have the backing of major political parties, which have the resources.

Thus, whoever wins could not stamp out corruption, as landlords and big business would have to recoup their expenses. He or she also could not substantially alter the direction and orientation of the country’s economy. An article in the May 7-8, 2010 issue of Business World clearly shows that nothing would change in the direction and orientation of the economy, even if it is being battered by a crisis. The title of the article is Poll Success more urgent as Aquino, Villar stances don’t differ much. Here are a few quotations from the article:

“In its ‘Asia Economics Flash’ research published on April 28, Goldman Sachs said ‘we believe it is more important for the market to focus on the process and timeliness of the transition.’”

“It pointed out that between Benigno C. Aquino III and Manuel B. Villar, ‘we do not see any significant divergence on major market issues, including their positions on the state of the economy, fiscal policy, and budget consolidation.’”

To translate in simple terms, what Goldman Sachs is saying is that no substantial changes are expected in the orientation and direction of the economy and its concomitant policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization – which has sparked the crisis and caused untold sufferings on the Filipino people – whoever wins in the elections, whether it would be Aquino or Villar, or even Estrada for that matter. Thus, there would be no significant deviation from the economic policies that were pursued by the outgoing Arroyo administration. The only thing that needs to be ensured is a peaceful transition of power.

Goldman Sachs is one of the giant financial investment banks that has triggered the financial and economic crisis that imploded in 2007. Its former employees include Henry Paulson, its former CEO and the Treasury secretary under Pres. George W. Bush, and Robert Rubin, the Treasury secretary under Pres. Bill Clinton. The current US Treasury secretary Timothy Franz Geithner was an assistant of Paulson.

Did we have clean and honest elections? Perhaps, only at the precinct level.

Did we have democratic elections? If by democratic we mean that the Filipino people would be able to choose their true representatives who would genuinely work for their interests, definitely not. (

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  1. Cebu Election Monitoring and Documentation Result
    May 14, 2010

    “Claiming Success of the Automated Elections is Misleading”

    Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change (Pagbabago! Cebu) in cooperation with Workers’ Electoral Watch (Cebu) and Cebu Alliance to Reform Election, in its Election Monitoring and Documentation, has witnessed irregularities and fraud in the conduct of the 2010 Elections.

    Summary from monitoring of 4 provinces (Cebu, Bohol, So.Leyte, Biliran) in the Visayas with 10 cities, 23 towns, 83 barangays and 88 voting centers shows that it is misleading for the COMELEC and other groups to claim that the 2010 Automated Elections is a success.

    Hastily claiming success would ignore the fact that massive disenfranchisement of voters occurred due to difficulty in finding names, PCOS malfunction, CF card problems, rejected ballots, unfamiliarity of voters of the correct voting procedure, long lines, and unsystematic voting process.

    Fraud is widespread with vote-buying. As the program stored in the CF cards was not sufficiently reviewed, doubts remain whether the votes cast were correctly interpreted and transmitted.

    The more than 300 anti-fraud volunteers noted the following incidents during the elections:

    1. Delayed start of voting. In Lapulapu City and Cebu City, there were reports from 10 voting centers (11 clustered precincts) that voting started 30 minutes to 2 hours after 7AM, which is the official start of voting.

    2. Voting started earlier than the official time. In Cebu City, in two voting centers (3 clustered precincts), voting started before the official time, 7AM.

    3. Difficulty in finding names and irregularities in the voters’ list. In almost all voting centers, hundreds gathered in information centers to look for names. Most first-time voters are not included in the voters’ list. There are 20 cases of dead persons still included in the voters’ list and 2 cases of double-entry of name. This situation is vulnerable to flying voters.

    4. Irregularity involving BEI and support staff. There are cases in which BEI and support staff are partisan to a candidate and would give out priority numbers in favor of supporters of some candidates. This is particularly evident in Lapulapu City where there are support staff who would ask voters to look for their names in the masterlist in information center manned by Radaza supporters. Names and sequence numbers of voters are then written on Radaza sample ballots.

    There were also cases in Cebu City and Consolacion where BEIs did not allow legitimate watchers to go inside the precinct.

    5. Tampering of seal of PCOS. An incident in Cebu City showed that on election day, the PCOS machine had no security lock, which means it was not properly sealed after testing.

    6. Problems in voting procedures.

    a. Priority numbers. In almost all voting centers, chaos resulted from the unsystematic giving out of priority numbers such as i.)two sets of the same number issued, ii.) numbers only up to 50 or 100, iii.) sudden changes in decision whether or not to issue priority numbers, iv.)partisanship in issuing the numbers, v.) waiting up to 3 hours before being issued a number. There were cases when numbers were not prepared before the election day but were just prepared when the polls officially opened.

    b. Long line. In all voting centers, long lines of voters were common. In a voting center in Lapulapu City, there was only 1 classroom allotted as holding area while hundreds of voters wait outside. In Cebu City, there was a voting center where only a few chairs were prepared for those who wait. Some had to pretend to be pregnant or to assist senior citizens in order to be served first.

    c. Average number of waiting hours. Voters waited for an average of 5-6 hours before being able to cast their votes. Some reported to have waited for 9 hours.

    d. Ballot authentication. Most ballots in precincts were not authenticated by UV lamps. Some BEI’s were not aware that the ballots need to be authenticated. If ballots are not authenticated, fake ballots could be fed into the machine without being detected.

    e. Voting secrecy. Secrecy folders didn’t serve its purpose as these were too short. Some BEI’s insisted that folders were not needed. Voters were seated too close to each other. In some cases, support staff fed the ballots to the PCOS machines instead of the voters.

    f. Senior citizen difficulty in voting. Font size of print on the ballot is too small. Light was insufficient in some precincts. Some did not know the proper voting procedure (i.e., correct shading, exact number of candidates/partylist to vote).

    g. Thumb mark printing. There was a case where voter was not asked to put thumbmark after voting. There was also a case where voter was asked to put thumbmark before filling up ballot.

    h. Putting of indelible ink. There are two cases where indelible ink was not put on voter’s forefinger after voting. This means that voter without indelible ink could vote again.

    i. Voter’s signatures. There are cases where voters did not sign name after voting. There are also BEIs who insist that there is no need to sign the book of voters.

    7. PCOS malfunction. A total of 56 PCOS machines malfunctioned in 3 cities/15 towns in Cebu and 1 city/1town in Bohol or in a total of 36 voting centers. This means that almost half or 40.9 % of the voting centers monitored experienced problems with the PCOS machine. As one PCOS machine serves an average of 1,ooo voters, this means that around 56,000 voters were threatened of disenfranchisement if machines were not repaired or replaced. Some voters left polling place when machine malfunctioned.

    8. CF card problem. In 3 voting centers in 3 cities (Cebu, Mandaue, Bogo), there was a problem with CF cards. One was defective and another did not have data stored. In Bogo City, a CF card got lost upon manual delivery to City Board of Canvassers.

    9. Brownout. In Bohol, brownout occurred in some towns, resulting to delay in voting and transmission.

    10. Disenfranchisement of voters. There was disenfranchisement of voters in almost all voting centers monitored. In 3 cities and 12 towns in the 4 provinces monitored, there was a total of 488 rejected ballots, excluding those which volunteers were not able to record. In almost all voting centers, there were voters disenfranchised because their names were not on the voters’ list. A large number left the polling place due to the long line and long hours of waiting.

    In Lahug, in 11 precincts, 26.8% of voters were disenfranchised. 2,775 voters with priority numbers failed to vote, while 176 voters had their ballots rejected.

    11. Transmission delay. In Cebu, 88 voting centers reportedly were delayed in transmitting ER due to problem with signal, inavailability of modem, PCOS and CF problems, and late closing of polls. Out of the 88 voting centers, 51 of these were in Bantayan island.

    12. Massive vote-buying. In Lapulapu City, after voting, voters holding Radaza sample ballots were approached by Radaza supporters who then signed the sample ballot. The signed sample ballots will be the claim stub for money.

    In the 4 provinces, amount of money given to voters by candidates ranges from PhP20 to PhP1000.

    13. Presence of military and PNP inside voting centers. Almost all voting centers have violated Comelec General Instruction that AFP and PNP must not be present within the 50m radius of the polling place. Some PNP/AFP intervened when PCOS malfunctioned. In one voting center, a partisan PNP was intervening in the issuing of priority numbers, favoring voters who are supporters of his candidate.

    14. Campaigning on election day. On election day, distribution of campaign materials were still done in most voting centers monitored.


    We commend the Filipino voters who went out to vote, with high hopes that the 2010 elections would bring genuine change in our land.

    The voters’ enthusiasm, however, was dampened due to the lack of preparation that was glaring in the conduct of the May 10, 2010 elections. Pagbabago! believes that COMELEC, Smartmatic TIM and the Arroyo Government should be held accountable to the problems that occurred in the elections.

    We call on the COMELEC to apologize to the public for the lack of preparations causing chaos last election day.

    Safeguards against electronic fraud were not done: source code review, encryption, digital signature, and rigorous testing.

    We have also seen that automation did not stop fraud. We fear for dagdag-bawas through CF card data manipulation and transmission, especially that election returns transmitted are not encrypted and not digitally signed.

    Finally, we believe that for as long as Philippine politics is dominated by an elite whose self-interest (for wealth and influence) deny the people of genuine service, fraud and terror will be common occurrence in every electoral exercise, whether manual or automated.

    The people then, must continue the struggle for new politics, one that truly addresses the people’s aspirations for justice, equality, progress and peace.

    For Reference:

    Fr. Jess Dumaual, MSC
    Pagbabago! Cebu
    Telefax No. 4126903

  2. There was no clean elections even in the precinct level because of the massive disenfranchisement, rejected ballots, vote buying.

    Priority numbers given out by partisan support staff did not facilitate fairness. Massive vote buying controls the result at the precinct level.

    How can we say there was clean elections at the precinct level?

  3. for the cheaters, if there is a will, there is a matter what form of elections we long as the opportunity to cheat arises, they will always grab that opportunity

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