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Spotty record

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All things being equal, it does not need the President nor any of his aides to provide a constant assurance to voters that the national elections would be clean and credible.

The conduct of the immediate past elections through the highly suspect automated elections system of Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) affinity to it, however, pose questions that needed to be dispelled time and again.

The genuine will of the electorate, as presidential spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo termed it, was never convincingly attained in the previous yellow regime.

Panelo said the campaigns will also be in accordance with the law as President Rody Duterte will not allow government resources to be used during the period to woo votes.

“Not a single centavo from the taxpayers’ money nor any government property will be spent or used for or against a candidate,” he said.

The election machines, however, remain a big question mark despite the huge sums spent in acquiring and refurbishing these.

The Comelec initially leased Smartmatic’s Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and ended up buying these for P1.8 billion after the 2010 polls.

Prior to the 2013 polls, most of the machines have shown defects and the Comelec said it would be more costly to repair the PCOS units compared to leasing the then new Vote Counting Machines (VCM) also from Smartmatic.

The Comelec, stating the need to do what it deems to best benefit the public proceeded to lease 97,517 VCM from Smartmatic.

The Comelec, similar to its move on PCOS, availed itself of the purchase option on the VCM at a cost of P2.2 billion.

Aside from the VCM, Comelec also has 81,896 units of PCOS machines which it bought for P1.8 billion.

With the huge number of counting machines lying around in its warehouses, the Comelec can hardly offer a credible assurance against some of these equipment falling in the wrong hands and being misused.

Unresolved incidents in 2016 provided a reference on the manipulation of the machines.
Witnesses came out to the automated yellow vote rigging who said they were part of the operations in a building in Quezon province affecting the votes in that locality favored LP candidates Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo.

One of the three witnesses who approached Pastor Boy Saycon of the Council for Philippine Affairs then said he was trained to handle the machines used for the vote manipulations and said the results in a municipality were transmitted to their operations hub where these are changed before being fed to Smartmatic machines which then transmit the votes to the servers.

The operations were quite extensive as they needed the use of at least three floors of a building.

His other accomplices encoded the results transmitted from the municipalities.

Asked who had ordered them to manipulate the votes, the witness said it was a high government official during the term of President Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party.

The witness said Robredo’s closest rival, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, lost about 200,000 votes just in Quezon province while Robredo allegedly received an additional 300,000 votes.

The votes, which were allegedly added to Roxas were more than 400,000, the witness said.
He added votes were also added to certain senatorial candidates, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, vice chairman of LP.

There was also the Novotel incident in which the Comelec citizens’ arm Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) raising an alarm of Smartmatic personnel and VCM being found in a hotel within the Araneta Center vicinity in Cubao, Quezon City owned by the Roxas family.

Strangely, the denial on the allegations of VCM being found in Novotel was issued immediately by Roxas when it was Smartmatic personnel and equipment being questioned by PPCRV.

After the PPCRV blew the whistle, then Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista immediately went to the hotel for an inspection and supposedly found nothing but Bautista admitted that Smartmatic personnel were billeted in the hotel.

Only the landslide victory of President Rodrigo Duterte prevented the supposed operations from succeeding.

In a few months, Smartmatic machines will again be used to count the votes which makes it imperative to resolve lingering questions raised on their use.

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