Duterte supporters allege cheating in presidential polls

DUTERTE SUPPORTER. Ronald Cardema, chairman of a group called Duterte Youth, claims the President was cheated in the 2016 elections.

Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte claimed their candidate was cheated in the 2016 elections, but failed to present proof when their leader faced reporters Tuesday, June 6, to publicize their claim. 

Ronald Cardema, chairman of a group called Duterte Youth, filed a letter at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday to raise their concern before Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista. 

Cardema said his group wants to brief the Comelec at 10 am on June 13 about "the numerous violations" of the Comelec's technology provider, Smartmatic, in previous elections. He also said they want Smartmatic barred from providing services in future polls.

If not for alleged irregularities committed by Smartmatic, he said Duterte should have gotten "more than 20 million votes," not only 16 million, in the 2016 elections. 

He had no proof when he went to the Comelec on Tuesday. 

All Cardema could say was that Smartmatic had an unofficial "intermediary server," where votes went through before reaching the Comelec's official servers.  

Cardema could not answer, however, when asked if the intermediary server was able to alter the number of votes.

"Mahirap 'yan. Mahirap 'yan sabihin exactly. Mahirap sagutin 'yang tanong na 'yan. Pero ang gusto nating i-question, bakit merong server na ganyan, not allowed by the contract, na part of the flowchart of Comelec?" Cardema said.

(That's difficult. It's difficult to say that exactly. It's difficult to answer that question. But what we want to question is, why is there such a server that is not allowed by the country, that is part of the flowchart of Comelec?)

Elections null and void?

If, then, their group is unsure whether the "intermediary server" can alter the number of votes, where did their "20 million" figure come from? 

Cardema answered: "I think it will be clearer with the presentation of the Philippine Computer Society. You know, I'm not a computer expert. They just showed me this presentation, and they want to voice out this concern."

Cardema was also asked about the consequence of their claim – that the presidential elections could become null and void if irregularities happened indeed. 

He replied that "we cannot just remove all the officials of the government," and that their group wants to "show the facts first and then let the Comelec act on it." 

Sought for comment, Bautista told Rappler on Wednesday, June 7, that he will consult the Comelec en banc regarding Cardema's request.

Bautista pointed out, however, that "the matter is sub judice" with the Supreme Court, which is hearing the election protest of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.

He added that no automated election system has been chosen for the 2019 elections. "We shall await the recommendation of the Comelec Advisory Council and subject the same to consultation with the various electoral stakeholders," Bautista said. 

Cardema was one of the Duterte supporters confronted by singer Jim Paredes on February 25, the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos. 

Cardema, based on reports, was also among those who staged rallies to support a hero's burial for Marcos. He reportedly heads the Kabataan for Bongbong Movement.

Cardema's request to the Comelec comes as the dictator's son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, is protesting the vice presidential elections won by Vice President Leni Robredo. 

Five days before Cardema went to the Comelec, Marcos Jr urged the Supreme Court to speed up the process of his election protest.  – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.