Comelec must ease concerns on eve of polls – ex-chairman Monsod

CLEAR THE AIR. Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod says the poll body should leave no stone unturned in assuring voters there won't be manipulation in the May 9, 2016 elections.

CLEAR THE AIR. Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod says the poll body should leave no stone unturned in assuring voters there won't be manipulation in the May 9, 2016 elections.

MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Christian Monsod said the guardians of the Philippine ballot should ease all concerns voters may have about manipulation in the May 9 polls.

Speaking with Rappler anchor Cheche Lazaro on Sunday, May 8, Monsod said that with accusations expected to be hurled at the Comelec, it should respond firmly in order to maintain credibility and ensure that Filipinos will not be discouraged from casting their ballots.

"I think there are some people whose job it is to create doubt if they lose, and they are probably preparing already," said Monsod.

"That’s why it's very important for everybody to cooperate with the Comelec, to verify these accusations with hard facts."

The poll body's former chief also warned that "this is a time when all black operations take place."

"A long time ago, somebody produced a medical report on Miriam [Defensor Santiago]… which turned out to be false," he said, "and so you must be prepared for these kinds of operations and challenge the people who claim they have proof of certain intent of Comelec to cheat."

Monsod said that in order for hacking to take place, it must be "from the inside," with the aid of an "internal conspirator." 

The poll body faced criticism following the hacking of its official website last March 27 by Anonymous Philippines, a little over a month before the Philippines' 3rd automated elections. Not long after, another group accessed the data of the poll body's website and posted it publicly.

The data breach then reached a whole new level on April 21, when a website leaked the personal information of Filipino voters. This sparked even more outrage and raised doubts about the elections.

A 23-year-old information technology graduate was arrested over the hacking.

But with the elections just a day away, the poll body said it is facing a "bigger" problem: the spread of election-related "misinformation" online.

"Mas mahirap pa ngayong challenge 'yung sinasagupa natin 'yung napakaraming misinformation na kumakalat, so that's, right now, the bigger challenge for us," said Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez on Saturday, May 7.

(The more difficult challenge is fighting the many forms of misinformation now spreading, so that's, right now, the bigger challenge for us.)

According to the spokesman, false reports of election fraud are making rounds on social media, with one such report displaying a photo of a fake ballot with yellow highlights over the names of presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II and vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo from the Liberal Party.

"I think there's a lot of people who still trust the Comelec, and all the more reason why the Comelec should challenge all accusations of manipulation," said Monsod. "This is a good time to do it because it is the eve of election day."

According to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, no formal complaints have been filed before the poll body yet as of Friday, May 6.

Assuring that there is no manipulation of votes will also make it more encouraging for voters to cast their ballots, said Monsod.

"It's not just about the credibility. It's about the fact that the people might be discouraged to vote and say, 'Ba't tayo boboto?'

(Why will we vote?)

"We should tell people to vote," said Monsod. "As a matter of fact, those reluctant to say, 'Hindi, talo na eh (No, my candidate will already lose),' we should tell them, 'You vote, because it's your vote who will determine the winnability of your candidate.'" – Rappler.com