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MANILA, Philippines – This highly urbanized city that has transformed from being a fishing community to a thriving industrial and commercial center makes one good argument in revisiting the wisdom of automated elections.
Taguig City, home to the upscale Bonifacio Global City, has outdone remote and far-flung areas in the rate of failed transmission of election results.
Out of its 377 clustered precincts, only 177 were able to send results from their precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to the main Server and the Transparency Server of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
It was a measly 47 percent transmission rate from a city that is just 13 kilometers away from the Comelec’s base in Manila.
An officer of the poll watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) said Taguig’s case was a “puzzle.”
It’s a transmission rate that is just slightly better than the 45 percent of Basilan, which is 889.84 kilometers from Manila. But it was definitely a shame compared to those of Sarangani, Dinagat Islands, and Siquijor, which had 97 percent transmission rates.
In Metro Manila, of which Taguig is a part, the average transmission rate was 91 percent. The average figure for the National Capital Region was dragged down by Taguig’s low transmission rate.
The transmission failure was so bad that even the precinct identified for the random manual audit (RMA) in Taguig’s 2nd district was among those which failed to send results to the Transparency Server.
The Transparency Server serves a mirror site for media and other election watchdogs for election results in the precinct level.
Re-electionist Mayor Lani Cayetano won the race against Rica Tinga by 23,000 votes. Tinga is the daughter of former Supreme Court Justice Dante Tinga, who also lost the mayoral battle with Cayetano in 2010. Rica’s brother, former Taguig mayor Freddie Tinga, reached his term limit that year.
Taguig election assistant Melanie Icaro, in a phone interview, readily admitted that the transmission failure in the city was high, but clarified that results in the precincts that failed to transmit were canvassed by the City Board of Canvassers (CBOC) just the same.
Icaro said the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) manning the precincts gave up sending results from the PCOS for lack of signal. In such cases, the compact flash (CF) cards, which contained the results of the voting at the precincts, were removed from the PCOS and taken to the CBOC for canvassing.
The Comelec’s ladderized transmission scheme provides that precinct results that the PCOS machines fail to transmit be brought to the municipal or city canvassing center for transmission to the provincial and then to the National Board of Canvassers. These manually canvassed results are not reflected in the Transparency Server.
Icaro said the Comelec’s National Support Center – which provided technical support to the BEIs and election officers for concerns about the PCOS machine, results consolidation, and canvassing – told them that the signal problem was prompted by the heavy transmission traffic in the first few hours after the polling precincts closed.
“The BEIs gave up after several tries so they just decided to bring the CF cards to the Reception Custody Group,” Icaro said.
Poor or lack of signal was also the line given by Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr in justifying the huge gap of results not received by the Transparency Server.
Icaro downplayed suggestions that it was possible the CF cards were switched while these were in transit to the CBOC. She said there were election watchers that accompanied the BEIs.
Virtual Private Network
Namfrel’s Eric Alvia said it was a “puzzle” that Taguig experienced transmission failure considering its location. “It is a growing business hub, and to say that the high transmission failure was due to lack of signal defies explanation.”
Alvia pointed out that telecommunication companies dedicated a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in receiving election results in anticipation of congestion during election day.
“The VPN is an information highway, a freeway for data dedicated for the election results,” he said.
He said polls officials should not blame heavy traffic for the low transmission rates in Taguig. “How come Surigao del Sur has 95% transmission rate?”
Smart and Globe have separately denied signal problems during and after the elections. “Our networks did not suffer congestion or heavy traffic at any point throughout the election process, including the first 6 hours after the closing of the polling precincts when traffic from PCOS machines was at its peak,” the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., which operates Smart and Sun Cellular, said.
Globe for its part insisted “there was no problem in our network.”
Tinga’s camp has asked the Comelec to declare a failure of elections in the city due to alleged massive fraud and election irregularities perpetrated by Cayetano’s camp.
They claim that ballots handed out to voters were already pre-shaded in Cayetano’s favor and her allies, including her brother-in-law, Lino Cayetano, a barangay chair who won as 2nd district congressman.
“With all the BEIs, the school principals, the DepEd Division personnel, the Comelec support staff, and poll technicians forming an unholy alliance and conspiring in the colossal fraud, the massive use of the pre-shaded ballots was executed with amazing speed and ease,” Tinga’s petition stated. – Rappler.com
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