Canvassing of votes, not spared from problems

When the unofficial results being tallied by the PPCRV yielded a numerically improbable total, Smartmatic technicians proceeded to change a script of the source code, which, to IT experts, proves that the election results could easily be tampered with.


MANILA – As the Comelec started giving the media updates on the number of votes canvassed for senatorial candidates, it called the source of its tallies as “Comelec transparency server.” But naming it transparent does not make it so, according to the summary of reports received by election watchdog KontraDaya.

“Contrary to statements of Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes, PCOS-related problems were widespread yesterday,” said Renato Reyes Jr., co-convener of KontraDaya. He said no matter how Brillantes tries to downplay the problems, the widespread incidences of PCOS machine malfunctions, thereby delaying elections, had been witnessed by many Filipino voters.

Some volunteers of election watchdog as they process field reports
Some volunteers of election watchdog as they process field reports

Reyes reiterated the chain reaction of problems resulting from malfunctioning PCOS machines – all of which ultimately resulting in voters’ disenfranchisement, he said. But considering that the Comelec has already described as orderly to near-perfect the holding of elections yesterday, the media are hard put to find data on how many Filipino voters had been disenfranchised, and how many PCOS machines have broken down or were partially bogged down yesterday. In an interview, ABS-CBN Ted Failon, for example, asked Renato Reyes Jr. of KontraDaya where data for that can be sourced now? “Can we get it from the Comelec? Or can KontraDaya’s network of groups that monitored the elections compile it?” Failon asked.

With the election results emanating now from a black box, the chairman of UE political science department also reportedly noted that questions still hang over the transparency and credibility of the transmission of votes. But he noted also that these questions on the processes of elections and counting are being buried in the speed in which the election results are being counted and announced.

Credibility problems

As electoral count continues, doubts over the accuracy of counting cropped up immediately. According to KontraDaya, the questionable results yielded at the start by the PPCRV-KBP’s canvassing servers underscore the problems with the Smartmatic Automated Election System (AES). “Without the benefit of public disclosure of the AES source code and thorough pre-testing, these statistically wrong results put the whole canvassing of votes into serious question. Any results from hereon are now questionable,” KontraDaya said.

Early into canvassing, the PPCRV-KBP transparency server flashed on national television a numerically improbable total of around 10 million votes for the top senatorial spot while reporting only a total of 1,418 precincts. KontraDaya described the error as “significant,” explaining that a maximum of 1,000 voters per precinct should only yield a total of around 1,418,000 maximum votes.

The PPCRV-KBP later flashed another number which showed the top senatorial vote to be 4.8 million. But the “correction” gives rise to another problem.

Media reports said there appears to be a problem with the script of the canvassing program attributable to Smartmatic. PPCRV, meanwhile, said the data were not correctly formatted and were double-counted. And here, a source of the election watchdog’s worries cropped up.

Smartmatic was reported to have changed the script of the source code during the canvassing to adjust the bloated figures. “That Smartmatic can change the script of the source code during the canvassing shows serious problems with the entire automated system,” KontraDaya said.

The watchdog urged PPCRV to suspend releasing unofficial tallies until Smartmatic has sufficiently explained the bloated figures and how this was corrected. As of this writing, though, the PPCRV continues to release results of canvassing which now follow closely the “transparent” canvassing of Comelec, after Smartmatic tweaked the “script” for the more statistically believable numbers.

KontraDaya recalls that a similar problem involving statistically improbable figures happened in 2010, when the total registered voters in the canvassing server reached up to 153 million, exceeding even the total population of the Philippines at the time. Smartmatic supposedly changed the source code on the fly on the election day of 2010.

“Without a genuine source code review of the canvassing and consolidation server (CCS), the public can never know what Smartmatic’s system for tallying and canvassing votes really is. It appears that they can also change the source code on the spot, which makes the whole election system a questionable and problematic exercise,” said KontraDaya.

Comelec and Smartmatic explained this away as a technical problem involving the script that does the totals from the PCOS machines. But according to Dr. Gani Tapang of KontraDaya, this explanation does nothing to build transparency and accountability. He added that from now on, “We have no independent guarantee that the votes were not tampered by the PCOS machine or the server.” (

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