Politicians show why PCOS doesn’t work

Purple S. Romero
At least 6 electoral protest cases highlight alleged flaws of the PCOS machines

MANILA, Philippines – On Wednesday, May 2, election watchdogs argued before the Supreme Court why the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should not use the same automated machines that were deployed in the 2010 elections.

The groups said there were unanswered questions over the usage of the P1.8-B precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the national elections two years ago.

Politicians whose electoral disputes have yet to be resolved could not agree more.

Just how does one get “cheated” in an election that uses PCOS machines? The following case studies contain certain allegations:

Roxas vs Binay

The case of defeated vice presidential candidate Manuel Roxas III against Vice President Jejomar Binay shows that PCOS machines would not read ballots whose ovals are not shaded properly or when more than one oval is shaded. The votes would then be rendered null.

In the 2010 elections, there were almost 3 million null votes. Roxas wants the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) – which is also the Supreme Court – to consider these votes. Roxas, now Transporation and Communications Secretary, lost to Binay by 700,000 votes. Based on the official Comelec tally, Roxas got 13.4 million votes, while Binay had 14 million votes.

Roxas also wants the PET to order the forensic examination of 26,000 compact flash cards.

Cayetano vs Tinga

Like Roxas, Taguig Mayor Laani “Lani” Cayetano wants the Comelec to examine the CF cards in Taguig’s 370 clustered election precincts in 2010. This is Cayetano’s condition before she said the poll body could retrieve all the ballots that were cast for the mayoral race in the affluent city.

Cayetano, in her motion for clarification filed with the Supreme Court in February, said that according to Comelec’s Rules of Procedure, the CF cards – not the ballots – should be reviewed in case of questions on election results.

Cayetano’s chief rival for the 2010 race, retired SC Justice Dante Tinga, is protesting her victory. But Tinga is seeking a recount instead, in particular of ballots in Taguig’s 217 clustered precincts. Tinga lost by 2,420 votes to Cayetano in the 2010 local race. Cayetano won a total of 95,865 votes.

But why would there be any disparity between the CF cards and the ballots?

Tinga alleged that the CF cards, like the ballots, could be tampered with. In his protest, Tinga said the CF cards had been “pre-programmed” and that the PCOS machines used in Taguig also malfunctioned.

Susano vs Bautista

The same allegations were raised by former Quezon City Rep Annie Susano, who lost to Herbert Bautista for the 2010 mayoral race in the city. Susano is also one of the petitioners who had asked the SC to stop the Comelec from once again using the PCOS machines in the 2013 elections.

Susano presented a computer expert in 2010 who, according to her, was able to access the audit log file in the CF cards. But Smartmatic, the provider of the PCOS machines, said that while accessing and altering the CF cards is possible, the PCOS machines automatically reject the altered files without digital signatures. Thus, Smartmatic said, the CF cards could not be pre-programmed.

Piñol vs Santos

Another 2010 election protest pending in the Comelec offered an interesting twist.

North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol alleged that poll results for elections in Colombia, South America, were found in a CF card that was supposedly used for the voting in the town of Pikit. The results from Colombia were discovered after the CF card was decrypted.

Piñol has filed an electoral protest against former Rep. Emmylou Talino-Santos who beat him by some 30,000 votes.

Atienza vs Lim

The first electoral protest in the aftermath of the 2010 elections was filed by defeated Manila mayoral bet Joselito Atienza, who lost to Alfredo Lim.

In his protest, Atienza cited the findings of a random manual audit conducted by the  Comelec in Manila. According to the manual audit, “voting machine error” happened in the counting for the Manila mayor position. (Lim won in in Manila with 395, 910 votes; Atienza got 181, 094 votes.)

The Comelec dismissed Atienza’s case, however. The poll body said that even if they include the ballots rejected by the PCOS machines in the 200 precincts that Atienza himself identified, Lim would still defeat him by 42,672 votes. Comelec reviewed the results in the 200 pilot precincts, which covered 14.25% of the 1,403 contested clustered precincts in Manila.

Atienza has elevated the case to the SC.

Maliksi vs Saquilayan

But perhaps the case that would best illustrate loopholes in the 2010 automated polls is the unseating of Imus Mayor Homer Saquilayan. (Although critics said Saquilayan was removed from the post just because of politics; he was up against a member of the ruling Liberal Party.)

Saquilayan, who won over then Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi in 2010 by 8,499 votes, was asked to vacate the post in 2011 after a revision of the ballots showed that Maliksi defeated him by 655 votes. Maliksi said he was cheated as ballots were allegedly pre-shaded in favor of Saquilayan.

During the oral arguments on May 2, however, SC justices asked the petitioners who are opposing the use of PCOS machines if they had any evidence that massive cheating marred the 2010 automated elections. They said they had none. – Rappler.com