Aside from the PCOS machines, Smartmatic claims that it sold to the Comelec numerous equipment worth P1.8 billion, including 5,000 mobile satellite antennas (BGAN) and 680 VSATs for transmission of results to polling and totalization centers with little or no cellular coverage. “If these really had worked, why is it that some 30-percent of the PCOS machines still failed to transmit results on election day?” – KontraDaya
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Three election commissioners in Thailand were sentenced to four years in prison last week over cases of favoring certain candidates in the elections. In the Philippines, the possibility of jailing election officials for election chicaneries are not even on the table – despite what election watchdogs have presented as the poll commissioners’ list of alleged sins. These sins range from corruption to violating the election law. To this day, calls for investigations and actions on the questioned conduct and results of last month’s elections are yet to be acted upon by the Aquino government, said leaders of Makabayan-allied organizations in election protests held almost weekly since last month.
Worse, “the heads of Comelec and Smartmatic are just repeatedly telling the public that the elections had proceeded smoothly, even if the peoples’ experiences and widespread complaints reveal the opposite,” as George San Mateo, national chairman of Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Natonwide), said in a rally at the Comelec yesterday June 5.
“When you read the Smartmatic website, you get the impression that the Philippine election had been smooth. But what is smooth in an election that you do not know how the results were counted?” Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said in KontraDaya’s protest in front of the Comelec headquarters in Manila. The glaring lack of transparency, combined with disabled security features, had been persistently pointed out by critics but the Comelec has not been listening, the protesters said.
While the people responsible for turning the Philippine elections into “a mockery” or “a travesty,” led by the Comelec and its foreign poll automation provider Smartmatic, are not yet being investigated – and made accountable – various groups are warning now against a Part 3 of this “mockery of an election.”
Against the “obvious” campaigning of the Comelec and Smartmatic to work together again in the 2016 Philippine elections, groups under KontraDaya demanded the scrapping of this Comelec-Smartmatic-style automated election system.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus who are set to call for a probe of the conduct of the 2013 election in the 16th Congress also challenged the COMELEC to open the ballot boxes for a public manual audit of votes. “Aquino’s COMELEC has violated several election safeguards stated in the Automated Electoral System Law. Both COMELEC and Smartmatic failed to comply with what the law required to ensure transparency. Even as Commissioner Sixto Brillantes Jr. attempts to reduce discrepancies to variances in the vote count, we all have no assurance that our votes were properly counted,” said Ilagan.
Filipinos robbed of votes, taxpayers’ money
Kontra Daya convenor Dr Gani Tapang also said that all past and future payments made by the Comelec to Smartmatic should be audited and that no further payments should be made to Smartmatic on account of the massive failure of PCOS machines during election day. Kontra Daya reacted strongly against the Smartmatic’s claims about the “success” of the Philippine 2013 elections.
Smartmatic claims to have sold to the Comelec 80,916 PCOS machines, 1,684 totalization and consolidation servers and printers, 164,400 Compact Flash Memory Cards for secure storage of election data, 48,000 modems and 46,000 SIM cards that were used for direct transmission of election returns, 5,000 mobile satellite antennas (BGAN) and 680 VSATs for transmission of results to polling and totalization centers with little or no cellular coverage, 2 Data Centers created to backup nationwide results with redundancy capabilities and 5,853 spare PCOS machines for contingencies, along with other services. The Comelec bought the PCOS machines from Smartmatic at P1.8 billion ($43.9 million).
How these equipment functioned or malfunctioned had not been reviewed nor reported to the public. “Some 30-percent of the PCOS machines malfunctioned on election day. If it’s a car we would have returned it long ago. But Brillantes has been doing a circus act to defend his purchase,” said Tapang.
Kontra Daya demanded to know what happened to the 5,000 mobile satellites and VSATs, which were supposedly deployed to areas with weak or no cellular coverage. “If these really had worked, why is it that some 30-percent of the PCOS machines still failed to transmit results on election day?” Tapang asked.
Tapang urged the public and the “elected officials” to be genuinely concerned that Smartmatic wants to reprise its role for the 2016 elections. “Smartmatic is here to stay unless we take action and make it and Comelec accountable for the questionable conduct of the 2013 elections,” Tapang said.
Before May this year, Kontra Daya had told Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes that “there would be a big problem if we reused the PCOS of Smartmatic.” But Kontra Daya said the Comelec just “played deaf, and even the government of Aquino seems uninterested – because they are benefitting from this un-transparent way of voting and counting.”
“All the previous election inefficiencies, culminating to PCOS malfunctions and the delays in the transmission of votes, have made the long discredited and elitist Philippine elections even more questionable and very undemocratic,” said De Jesus of Gabriela.
In another protest action, one that was held last week at the Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang, public and private sector workers led by KPMM demanded a parallel count and genuine audit of votes. “If the Comelec is afraid to do it, it only tends to show that they have been lying regarding the election results,” Sammy Malunes, KPMM spokesman told reporters.
As with KontraDaya, KPMM said the Comelec-Smartmatic version of poll automation has made “lump sum cheating” possible.
“If there had been no manipulation (of votes), we dare Comelec to do an audit of election results. Do a parallel count to affirm correctness of counted votes,” Malunes said. He added that if these demands are ignored by Comelec, “all the more will it confirm that the elections had been manipulated, that it were unclean and dishonest.”