Let us safeguard our votes

Nelly Favis-Villafuerte Nelly Favis-Villafuerte

There have always been irregularities and violations of the election laws in the past elections. Regardless of whether or not voting was using the automated machines (earlier known as PCOS or Precinct Count Optical Scanners in the 2010 and 2013 elections) – or whether it was manual voting.

It will be recalled that in the recently-concluded national and local elections (May 9, 2016), voting was still automated. But the election machine was no longer called PCOS but VCMs (Vote Counting Machines). But whatever name you call the election machines – the machine was still automated. And the danger of massive cheating and fraud is still there. Especially the so-called pre-loading of the ballots with particular names of some of the candidates already pre-printed making the voters’ choice inutile and useless. And worse, there have been instances where voters complained that the so-called voters receipt shown to a voter after voting show names of candidates that were not voted by a voter. The recent case of a Filipino Overseas Worker (OFW) in Italy, shown in YouTube is a clear example of this electoral fraud. The voter voted for Senatorial Candidate X but this did not appear in the voter’s receipt. The name of another Senatorial Candidate Y whom the voter did not vote for appeared instead in the voter’s receipt. In another case, an OFW voter used an UV light to check a sample ballot and to his surprise, he saw names of some senatorial candidates already printed in the sample ballot. What happened abroad can happen in the Philippines. Lesson: After voting and before leaving the precinct, the voter should check/ review the voter’s receipt which is shown to him (but he can bring out the voter’s receipt). If the voter detects some irregularities, he should immediately file a Protest with the Board of Election Inspectors (now also known as Electoral Board) and he should have his protest recorded in the Minutes of Voting.

Have there been actual instances of irregularities / cheating in elections in the Philippines? Yes. I can speak for the Third District of Camarines Sur. It will be recalled that in 2016 elections, Naga City had 85,473 registered voters but for the 2019 elections the voting population surprisingly jumped to 105,366. Out of the then 130 clustered of precincts in Naga City, 93 VCMs malfunctioned! Let me explain. As early as 6:10 AM on election day, one VCM machine malfunctioned. Was this an isolated case? No. One VCM after another started malfunctioning. It is as if an unseen force was directing and orchestrating the systematic VCMs malfunctioning.

Aside from Naga City, the other municipalities of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur are Bombon, Calabanga, Camaligan, Canaman, Magarao, Ocampo and Pili. Naga City is the biggest component-city in the 3rd District of Camarines Sur.
According to Senatorial Candidate Glenn Chong, there were 59 fake VCMs in the whole 3rd District of Camarines Sur. Naga City had 12 fake VCMs; Calabanga had 22 fake VCMs. Atty. Glenn Chong also reported that the Audit Log which is considered the brain of the VCM records all activities similar to the Black Box of an airplane. The entry log in the Audit Log should start with No. 1. But in Mac Mariano Elementary School in Naga City in the 2016 elections, the first entry was No. 2603. Why is Entry No. 1-2602 missing? In Sibobo Elementary School, the starting entry number was 1845. Again, where are the missing entry log nos. 1-1844? In another case, in Mabolo Elementary School again in Naga City, the Audit Log entry number started with 2496. Where are the missing numbers 1-2495?

When a VCM malfunctions, a technician is usually called by the Chairman of the Electoral Board. If you are a voter (or a watcher) and you are a witness to the entry of the technician who is supposed to diagnose the malfunctioning VCM – Please note the following safeguards:

  1. Ask for the technician’s ID. He should establish his identity.

  2. See to it that if the technician recommends replacement of the SD card, this should be recorded in the Minutes of Voting. Guard him. See to it that whatever new SD card he recommends must not come from his pocket but from a sealed envelope duly signed (dapat may sobre, may selyo, may pirma).

Since all records are in the SD card including cheating, the technician can install a new pre-loaded SD card from his pocket which can trigger cheating/electoral fraud.

Last May 9, 2019, the final testing and sealing (FTS) in Naga City took place. We know that overvoting for somebody/ 1 group (like senatorial candidates, or governor) will not invalidate the whole ballot. Example: a voter votes for 14 senatorial candidates instead of 12. Will this invalidate the whole ballot? No. Only the senatorial slate should be invalidated. But in the FTS in Naga City last May 9th, many VCMs invalidated the whole ballot. This strategy is obviously pre-programmed in the VCM. Definitely this will be fatal to a candidate in his bailwick areas since his big lead will be reduced drastically. There were other irregular observations during the FTS noted but because of space constraint, I cannot mention more.

Have a joyful day!

(For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected]).