“If there was really a Hocus PCOS that happened, only Comelec and Smartmatic would know.” – Migrante Party-list
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Migrante Partylist said its low turnout of votes in the recent election is “very improbable.”
“As early as the precinct-level counting, we have received calls from our poll watchers and OFWs complaining that votes for Migrante were not counted because most precincts registered ‘zero votes’ for our party-list. Some of the OFWs were crying, they were incredulous,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairperson and first nominee, said.
Migrante Partylist, an OFW group, said there were incidents of vote-shaving in precincts in various cities and provinces where they have affiliates and allied organizations. In Biñan, Laguna, Regalado said, they only got over a hundred votes when they have at least 2,500 card-bearing members who, the group added, are all registered voters.
In the poll precinct of their own coordinator in the National Capital Region, the OFW group said they got no votes at all.
“It’s incredible, it’s unbelievable. After a few days of evaluation of the election results, we have seen this trend in our strongholds,” Regalado said, adding that government officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration have expressed their disbelief in the low turnout of votes for Migrante Partylist.
More cases of irregularities
In its statement, Migrante Partylist said they documented several cases of irregularities.
In NCR, Tau Gamma Phi chapters, a fraternity who committed to vote as a bloc for Migrante Partylist, also noticed zero or single-digit votes in their respective precincts. Dondon Lanuza, an OFW on death row and whose case is the subject of a campaign of Migrante International, is a member of the said fraternity.
In one precinct in Malvar, Batangas, Migrante Partylist said, they got 33. But only 14 were transmitted to the municipal and provincial Board of Canvassers. The group expressed their disbelief on the said irregularity, adding that it was rampant in their bailiwicks in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and in Metro Manila.
“The votes were already small. And it decreased even more,” Regalado said.
She added that their poll watchers were “prevented from disputing the results because only Liberal Party and PPCRV [Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) poll watchers were allowed in the precinct and municipal canvassing.”
Regalado said Migrante Partylist will compile all these irregularities and submit it both to the Comelec and election watchdogs, adding that transparency and check-and-balance in the transmission of votes “had been deemed unverifiable by the Comelec because of ‘Hocus PCOS’.”
It is hard, Migrante Partylist said, to verify the integrity of the turnout of the election because Comelec is consistent in its stance on the results despite the reported irregularities. “It continues to reject calls for a source code review or a parallel manual count. If there was really a Hocus PCOS that happened, only Comelec and Smartmatic would know,” Regalado said.
In this light, Regalado raised suspicion on the involvement of Juan “Johnny” Revilla, second nominee of partylist OFW Family club. According to Migrante Partylist, Revilla is the project manager of Placewell Manpower, a recruitment agency contracted by Comelec to supply IT technicians for the PCOS machines in the 2010 election.
OFW Family is among the top 10 winners in the partylist election. It is also its first time to join the partylist election.
“We raise serious and grave concern over Revilla’s links to Smartmatic amid various reports and allegations of PCOS-related fraud, cheating, discrepancies and anomalies in the 2013 elections. Both the Comelec and OFW Family Club have some explaining to do since Revilla’s links to Smartmatic is clearly a conflict of interest,” Regalado said.
She added that Revilla “knows the ins and outs of the system. This is a very serious matter, especially now that Smartmatic’s systems remain in question due to technical and transparency issues in the election results,” she said.
Placewell Manpower, on the other hand, is one of Migrante International’s “most notorious recruitment agencies” and has been involved in “countless cases of illegal recruitment, contract substitution and other contract violations against OFWs.”
Low turnout of overseas absentee voting
Regalado said Comelec did nothing to address problems of low turnout of the Overseas Absentee Voting.
“When the OAV started last April 13, we have already brought to the Comelec’s attention areas of concern that could disenfranchise and widely affect the OAV turnout. Did Comelec address the problems?” she said.
Bulatlat.com, in its previous report, said many Filipinos in Hongkong were dismayed over the use of non-indelible ink during their OAV. Eman Villanueva, third nominee of Migrante Partylist, said voters were caught off guard because they expected to be marked with indelible ink as “an assurance of the safety of their vote and also an indelible symbol that (he or she) has exercised her right to vote.”
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said in reports that the use of indelible ink in OAV is impractical.
Aside from not using of indelible ink in Hongkong, Comelec did not increase the number of PCOS machines despite the increase in the number of voters. Brillantes said “The purchase is very limited. We did not buy additional machines. We are using the same PCOS machines we used in 2010. There was an increase in the number of registered voters in the Philippines.”
“In Hong Kong, Migrante poll watchers have also exposed that they found unused CF cards with pre-recorded votes in the polling precinct, as well as an unprecedented 20-minute blackout (a first in Hong Kong) and PCOS machines that failed and had their CF cards replaced,” Migrante Partylist said in a statement.
The OFW group said that their chapter in Saudi Arabia also documented poll-related irregularities.
In the Riyadh and Jeddah, voters and poll watchers from the “tent cities” (for stranded OFWs) were prohibited from entering the Philippine embassy and consulate, respectively.
Regalado, for her part, said the questionable 60-30-10 outcome for the senatorial race and a partylist turnout that does not allow more seats for progressive party-list groups, “is indicative of attempts to discredit progressive candidates. Interestingly, the results are coincidental to reported cases of AFP- and Malacanang-initiated red-baiting against progressive candidates.”
She added that “the apparent pre-programmed results of the 2013 mid-term elections have only further established how elections in the Philippines is an instrument to consolidate the ruling clique to further advance its own political interests.”
Regalado said their group will continue its service to OFWs and their families, “with or without elections.”
“It has confirmed up to what blatant extent the Aquino ruling clique is capable of in utilizing state machinery to secure its political and economic agenda until 2016 and beyond. The present political make-up of government is a cause for alarm – we now have an Aquino-dominated Senate, Congress and Supreme Court,” Regalado said, “In terms of policies and governance, we cannot expect genuine change.”