Brillantes to poll watchdog: Stop criticisms, help us instead

Michael Bueza
Brillantes to poll watchdog: Stop criticisms, help us instead
The Comelec chairman also denied reports that they are 'covering up' findings about 'digital lines' that supposedly affected the results of the 2013 polls

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr is urging a poll watchdog to help election officials in preparations for the 2016 national elections, instead of disrupting and criticizing them.

Brillantes faced members of the media on Thursday, November 20, to respond to a former Comelec lawyer’s allegation that the poll body had “covered up” findings about “digital lines” that supposedly affected the vote count in the 2013 midterm elections. (READ: ‘Dagdag-bawas’ through ‘digital lines’ in PCOS?)

“There is no cover-up on the ‘digital lines’ issue. We actually were the ones who discovered and reported it to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). We had them checked by DOST,” said Brillantes.

He added that the “digital lines” issue had been discussed in past hearings of the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated election system (JCOC-AES), which is already preparing to conduct its own probe regarding the matter.

Brillantes then chided Melchor Magdamo – lawyer and executive assistant of former Comelec chairman Jose Melo – who brought up the “digital lines” issue anew, as well as poll watchdog Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch), for supposedly “creating some confusion” in the 2016 poll preparations.

He said that Magdamo “is not aware of the entire 2013 election process,” because he was already out of the Comelec in April 2010.

With regards to AES Watch, Brillantes said, “Wala naman silang sinasabing bago. (They are not saying anything new.) All that they are saying now, they have said before in 2010 and 2013.”

He added that AES Watch had filed petitions before the Supreme Court over the last two automated polls but lost each time.

“Instead of criticizing us, help us,” Brillantes said. “Kung gusto niyong malaman kung anong nangyayari, pumunta kayo rito. Puwede naman nila kaming kausapin (If you want to know what is happening, you could go to our office. They could talk to us).”

Digital lines only have ‘minimal effect’

As for the issue of “digital lines,” Brillantes admitted that there were some cases of it, but did not adversely affect the election results.

“Digital lines may affect the results, but it’s only minimal. Wala halos. Pinalalaki lang nila (There is almost none. They’re just making a big issue out of it),” he said.

Brillantes explained that the Mylar film on the rollers inside the PCOS machines or the inks of marker pens used to shade the ovals on ballots may have caused these digital lines to appear on the decrypted images of physical ballots.

We are convinced that the results would not be affected,” Brillantes said.

The poll chief added that the Comelec is preparing to investigate the issue further. Around 500 clustered precincts around the country will be randomly selected to check whether or not the “digital lines” have affected the results in both the senatorial and local polls.

Brillantes invited AES Watch members to participate in the investigation.

In addition, he said that the Comelec is already planning to implement better quality controls when it begins refurbishing around 80,000 existing PCOS machines for the 2016 polls. “We don’t want [the “digital lines” issue] repeated in the next elections,” Brillantes said.

The JCOC-AES gave Comelec until December 25 deadline to submit a report regarding the “digital lines” issue. –

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.