Archive for the Politics and Politicians Category

Noynoy Aquino Did Not Become A Hostaged President

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

Politics is a realm that neither political analysts nor fortune tellers can accurately predict the outcome. The reality is that the outcomes are determined by the interests of the politicians which they hold dearly to themselves as a poker player would his cards. Anlaysts can only do an educated speculation, fortune tellers can only do blind guesses.

Politicians’ interests and game plans may change as the seasons do, depending on the situations during a particular time, or the convenience at that moment. That makes them unpredictable, which is sometimes a necessity in the cut-throat world that they move around in.

I am happy to admit that one analysis I made while in the thick of the campaign of the last national and local elections did not materialize into reality. Yes, I’m happy that it did not materialize. That analysis, which I posted in my blog ( Noynoy Aquino Could Be a Hostaged President ), pictured a scenario where both chambers of the Philippine Congress are dominated by opponents of Aquino, with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo heading the House of Representatives and Manny Villar leading the Senate.

The basis of that analysis is the fact that both politicians had a good number of allies (at that time, at least) that should have been enough for them to take hold of the helm in their respective chambers. That, combined with the usual expectation for politicians of such stature to crave for the post of top banana and the craving to get back at political opponents, served as the foundation of the analysis.

But to my surprise, neither seemed to have exerted effort not exhibited the desire to make life difficult for the new president. Perhaps the overwhelming mandate and the people’s high trust and confidence in President Aquino was enough to dissuade them. Or they lost their allies to political expediency, each of them characteristically looking out for their own interests. Or, uncharacteristically for politicians, they both lost the desire for power and the need to get back at their rival.

I am thankful to Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Sen. Manny Villar for not acting like typical traditional politicians. Ordinarily, one would expect a typical trapo to use the situation to get back at the opponent who defeated him or do everything to use the position to protect herself.

Whatever it is, I am just glad that President Noynoy Aquino enjoys the goodwill and support of both chambers. Both Houses have super majorities that support the President, led by personalities who have expressed cooperation, if not complete support, to the new administration.

Indeed, President Aquino is a blessed man. Not just because he won the Presidency in a relatively easy manner (considering that he decided to run just 5 months before the campaign began), but because as he begins his term of office, he has a high trust rating from his constituency and the support of the two chambers of Congress.

I pray that those around him will not waste this golden opportunity for the Philippines to be great again.

Advertisements

It’s Everybody’s Concern

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

It’s turning out to be one of the most awaited events of the year. Media networks are all geared up for their coverage, the internet is buzzing with chatter about what might and might not happen, and people are eagerly anticipating what’s in store for them in the coming years.

Some attendees probably prepared their wardrobe weeks in advance, more concerned with what they will wear to the occasion rather than the substance of the proceedings. Indeed, the event has been likened to a movie industry awards night, with reporters and photographers waiting along the sidelines of the red carpet jostling to throw the question “Who are you wearing?” (a question about who designed the outfit) and capture a photo worthy of a spread in the papers.

Even the ordinary Filipino seems to be more interested, compared to years past. I was surprised to read some Twitter messages from students and working people alike expressing their disappointment that a holiday was not declared making it impossible for them to watch the event. Quite unlike previously when either the people were indifferent or even questioned why a holiday had to be declared.

I remember a story told to me years back by one of my dad’s staff. She was rushing to work when a friend asked her why she had to go to the office even if a holiday was declared. My dad’s staff said, “I’m going to the SONA”. The friend said, “Ok, I’ll go with you”. She said, “I’m sorry you can’t. It’s by invitation only.” The friend, flabbergasted, said, “By invitation only? What kind of sauna is that?”

There was a time when people could care little what the SONA was all about, content with only reading about it in the papers the following day. Not only when reports began to give extra focus on who wore what made by whom did the masa take enough interest in news about the SONA, perhaps due to the Filipinos’ fondness of celebrities.

But now, with the overwhelming confidence in President Aquino’s leadership, it seems that the people’s interest in what he has to say about the country’s state and what he intends to do about stems from genuine concern.

Technology has also made it easier to monitor the SONA, with social networks in the internet serving as public information tools. Increased accessibility through wireless broadband and live streaming has given those with access to those facilities the ability to view the proceedings live over the internet. Of course, those who are still dreaming of such connectivity have the old reliable transistor radio to rely on.

The SONAs of the past president has always been a show and tell spectacle, not unlike those presented by celebrity storytellers to kindergarten students. Whether they just wanted to show their powerpoint skills or they thought that the people could be mesmerized by the show, it basically led people to take the SONA as just an entertaining event rather than a government’s presentation of what is in store for them.

But it seems with the new President’s first SONA, the people genuinely want to hear what he plans to do for the country. With the overwhelming and unquestionable mandate that he has, much is now demanded from him.

After listening to the SONA, the people should not be left with a feeling of having just been treated to an interesting report from the President. More than just having their eyes opened to anomalies of the previous administration and presented with a smart program of government, the SONA should give the people a feeling of ownership of the challenges faced by President Aquino. The fight for the country’s future is not the President’s alone. It is a shared responsibility between all who would like to see this country move forward.

June 4, 2010- A Significant Day in the House of Representatives

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , on June 5, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

To the average Filipino on the street, June 4, 2010 was supposed to be just another day that will uneventfully pass just as the previous one and those before it have done in that person’s lifetime. In fact, for most of our countrymen, that day was nothing different from any other day, even including June 12, Independence Day, or July 4, Fil-AM Friendship Day or June 20, Father’s Day. To a big majority of Filipinos, everyday is the same, a day to survive the challenge of day-to-day existence.

But to those who have cared enough to take action for quite a number of years now, June 4 was a special day. It was the day that they had been waiting for since the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was given life by the people’s voice in the plebiscite that institutionalized our country’s charter. It was supposed to be the day that the Freedom of Information Bill, mandated by the Constitution, was to finally become a law that would guarantee the people’s right to know how its government serves its constituents. After more than a decade of lobbying, June 4 was supposed to be Victory Day.

To me, June 4 was of special significance because it is the last session day that I will attend, my last day at work as a legislator. Although my term officially ends on June 30, I still intend to earn my pay by working for the welfare of my constituents until that day. But for me the work done in the committee hearings and plenary sessions is the essence of being a lawmaker.

After nine years as a member of the House of Representatives, I wanted the last day of session to be not just a day that would cap my three terms in routine fashion, but a day that would close with the passage of an important piece of legislation. I was eager to end the day with a vote ratifying the FOI Bill.

For the Secretariat of the House of Representatives, they prepared for this last day. For the first time in the history of the House, they prepared a special program for the closing session to honor the members of the House for the work that they have done in the Chamber. They intended to present to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd term members mementos of their membership in the House and compiled bounds of their legislative performance in a ceremony that certainly necessitated much preparation on their part.

It was just one day, but it had different meanings for different people. Actually, everyday is like that. What may be an insignificant, ordinary day for one is in fact, a special, life-changing or even historical day for some. It really just depends on what point for view we are coming from.

And so it was that June 4, 2010 was a significant day in the House of Representatives. While elsewhere in the country, anniversaries were celebrated, eulogies were being delivered, babies were being born, employees were punching out after their shifts, someone just lost his job…the session hall of Batasang Pambansa, the People’s House, was gradually getting filled with people attending the last session day of the 14th Congress.

The proponents, advocates and supporters of the Freedom of Information Bill filled sections of the gallery wanting to be personally present the minute that the vote of ratification institutionalizes this landmark piece of legislation. Many of them labored long and hard just for the bill to reach this day and they waited with anticipation for the proceedings to begin.

Actually, what was left was just a routine step of the process of passing a bill into law—ratification. The bill had already passed through the three readings of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It had also passed through bicameral conference. The Senate had ratified it, so the only thing left was the ratification by the House. Ratification was a simple ayes and nays vote of the House, the members not even required or expected to explain their votes. After that, it could be considered institutionalized as law. But in all its routine nature, it was a special piece of legislation.

The rest of the gallery was filled by employees of the House Secretariat, after having been directed to attend the ceremony to honor the Members of the House. Of course, also in the hall were the usual observers of the proceedings of the House, congressional staff and probably some curious citizens who happened to have time to spare to watch the proceedings.

But what promised to be a “special routine session” turned out to be quite an emotional one, with contrasting sentiments that pulled me in opposite directions.

The Members of the House were more psychologically prepared for the Honor Ceremony in the closing session. I would compare it to the emotions one had during high school graduation, the bittersweet feeling of wanting to move on in life while at the same time hanging on to the memories of good times spent with friends.

The honor that was to be given by the Secretariat also had its significance, since they were the people who served as our backbone during our work in Congress, and they were the ones who can truly make an objective judgment on how each and every congressman performed as a legislator.

Late by almost and hour, the session as finally resumed (it was just suspended in the previous session day) and the motion to ratify the Freedom of Information was immediately made by the Majority Floor Leader. As immediate as the motion was filed, the quorum was also immediately questioned.

Just by looking around the hall, it was difficult to make a judgment if indeed there were enough warm bodies present to constitute a quorum. When I entered the hall, there seemed to be not enough legislators on board. But with Malacanang joining the call for the passage of the bill, I did not expect that there would be a problem in the bill’s ratification. Nevertheless, congressmen began trickling in not long after the session was underway.

The session was suspended in order to resolve the issue that was raised. In this line of work, the adage “the squeaky wheel gets oiled” sometimes best describes this kind of situation. Many times in the past, when the quorum question is raised during a debate on a very important bill, the issue is settled after a little discussion with the one who raised the question during suspension.

After about thirty minutes of suspension, the session was resumed and the roll was called. Obviously, the quorum question was not resolved so the names of the members of congress were called one by one, with the secretariat staff ticking off the names in their list. At the end of the roll call, the Secretary General reported to the Speaker that 128 members of the House responded to the call. With that, the Speaker declared that with 128 members, there is no quorum and therefore, according to the rules, the House cannot conduct legislative business and would have to adjourn.

As expected, this ruling was met with vehement objections and impassioned pleadings from the proponents and supporters of the bill. Legislators pushing for the bill alternately took the floor questioning the results of the roll call and calling on the speaker to use a particular provision in the rules allowing the House to arrest the members who are absent. Understandably, emotions ran high and a bitter exchange threatened to mar the proceedings.

In the end, the Speaker stood pat in his ruling and adjourned the last session of the 14th Congress. What was intended to be a “special routine closing” and parting of friends now turned into a highly polarized legislative battle among peers. Definitely not what was envisioned as a last day of work for this Congress.

Naturally and rightfully so, those supporting the bill felt betrayed and cheated, and cast judgment on the House for failing to pass such an important measure. As I was doing live tweets of the proceedings over Twitter, I could see the numerous reactions of people online castigating the House most especially the Speaker. All the frustrations were posted and perhaps if not for the facility of the internet, people might have gone out to the streets to vent their anger.

The session had been adjourned but the honor ceremony still had to be undertaken. Actually, many had begun to think that it might not be appropriate anymore to have the ceremony. I felt it would not be taken well by the public who had just been treated to disappointment by the very House that would now give distinction to its members.

After quite a while of lingering, the Deputy Secretary General for Committee Affairs went on the public address system to inform everyone that the leadership of the House had decided to forego the honor ceremony, in deference to what the public might construe as the congressmen giving themselves a pat on the back after the emotional, divisive and controversial adjournment.

Her voice was cracking and straining under what seems to be a failed effort to hide her emotions. Clearly, she was distressed with what was happening. She went on to say that although the House leadership already made that decision, they in the Secretariat tried to convince the leadership to proceed with the ceremony. After all, she said, this ceremony, the first time held in the House’s colorful history, was initiated and prepared by the Secretariat to give due honor and recognition to the members of the House whom they had worked with on many important accomplishments of the institution. She pointed out that being first hand spectators to the performance of the legislators, they would like to proceed with the presentation of mementos and plaques of appreciation.

Indeed, while there are many highlighted occasions that the House had not displayed the righteousness that the people expect and deserve, there are many more unnoticed moments of low profile accomplishments that only the secretariat were witnesses to. They wanted to give due recognition to these accomplishments by way of the honor ceremony.

And so it was that under the contemptuous glare of the public, the House proceeded to honor its members. It basically consisted calling out the 1st-term, 2nd-term and 3rd-term members of the House in front of the hall and presenting them with plaques of appreciation and book-bound volumes of each legislator’s performance record (bills filed, laws passed, speeches delivered and transcripts of interpellations) and a CD version of the same. For the graduating congressmen, a Congressional medal was also presented in honor of completing the whole three terms in the House.

For me, it was a well appreciated gesture on the part of the Secretariat. What they presented was a symbol of the acknowledgment of the work I had done these past nine years. The mementos and volumes they gave me were things that I can present to other people to show that the mandate given to me by my constituents were not wasted and this was incontrovertible proof that I had earned the pay that people granted me the privilege to receive.

Indeed June 4 seemed to be an ordinary day. For some, it was. For others, it was a day that the House of Representatives failed the people. For me, it was the final day of a special period in my life when I had the privilege of being able to directly contribute to the welfare of this nation. Sad to say though, that by this final act of the House, the last thing in the people’s mind would be that the 14th Congress betrayed them.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE TOTAL NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS IN THE PHILIPPINES?

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

What’s the exact number of registered voters in the country in the May 10, 2010 elections? Initial canvass reports in the Senatorial Canvass showed 153,902,003 Filipino voters. The Canvassing and Consolidation Server (CCS) in the Presidential and Vice Presidential Canvass indicated that there are 256,733,195 registered voters.

Which of the two is the correct number? Actually, both are wrong.

Without even checking references, one would immediately know that both figures are incorrect because it is common knowledge that the Philippine population is just about 89 million. Since these figures are supposed to be system generated (meaning that they are automatically produced by the program of the Consolidation and Canvassing Server), these can be called defects of the product supplied by Smartmatic. Or in a more benign-sounding techie terminology, these are “glitches”.


Photo at left shows the Report No 1 of the National Canvass Report for Senator, certified by three Comelec Commissioners indicating the wrong number of registered voters in the Philippines. Photo at right is the close up of the document. The error in the CCS of the Presidential/Vice Presidential Canvass was the subject of discussion between Senate President Enrile and Smartmatic officer Cesar Flores during the first day of canvassing.

The “glitches” did not go unnoticed, though. In the senatorial canvass, representatives of the candidates, not having outgrown the habit of closely scrutinizing canvass documents during old, manual system where errors were aplenty, went over the system-generated report (which is supposed to be reliable because of less human intervention) and discovered the incorrect entry.

Comelec and Smartmatic officials apologized for the glitch, promising to correct it. Most of those in the canvassing teams of the candidates brushed it off, although when it was reported to me by my staff, I took a little bit more serious note of it. This was during the morning session of the canvassing.

When the Board of Canvassers (BOC) printed out the afternoon report, the first thing my staff did was to check if the error was corrected. It was not. It was then that I decided I had to go to the PICC to personally check on the documents and inquire about the process. At that time, I didn’t know it was a system generated report.

At the PICC, I was able to talk to Cesar Flores and I conveyed to him my support for an automated election. I then queried him about the reports that are being generated, particularly the reports per province as they are received by the BOC, because there are no reports being generated. The BOC simply reports out the consolidated tally, without us knowing the breakdown of results per province, unlike in the old system where you know the results that come in per province and you can cross check it with your field reports.

After our short chat, I was informed by my staff that the afternoon report was not corrected. It still contained the error in registered voters. I was also able to talk to a Comelec technical person who told me the Canvass Reports are system generated and that they will look into the error. After getting non-responsive answers to my questions, I left my staff to monitor the canvassing further.

When it was revealed through a report by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that a similar error was found in the CCS of the Presidential / Vice Presidential Canvass Board, red flags were raised in my head. Two separate systems, one error. But the curious thing is that while the nature of the errors were the same, the outcomes were different.

Of course, when both errors were discovered, the logical thing to do was to correct them. Not only was it logical, it was imperative. So the CCS in the Senatorial Canvass was corrected and the registered voters in the CCS of the Presidential /Vice Presidential Canvass was adjusted.

Most people settled down after those assuring actions were made. But wait, hold your horses!

In the canvass of the senatorial race, which has the same voting constituency as the President and Vice President, the figure that was indicated in the Total Registered Voters field after the correction was 51, 317, 073. Below is an image of the document, National Canvass Report No. 3 indicating the new number of registered voters which was used all the way through to Report No. 8.

But as revealed in the discussion during the first day of canvass for President and vice President, the figure that Smartmatic and Comelec used in correcting the erroneous entry in the number of registered voters is 51,292,465. I remember Senator Enrile asking what figure they used to change the wrong entry and if they were sure with the number as I was listening to the proceedings in the radio. True enough, those figures are the ones reported in the news.

With the two Consolidation and Canvassing Servers once again having differing numbers of registered voters, I decided to check which one was accurate. Where else will I turn to but the Commission on Elections? So I visited their website and clicked on the page where the registered voters were indicated.

Lo and behold, a figure different from both numbers appears in the website of the Comelec itself. In their tally, there are 50,723,733 registered voters in the Philippines as January 2010. To my knowledge, the last day of registration was October 31, 2009 per Comelec Resolution No. 8585, so this should be the correct figure. There couldn’t have been additional voters between January 2010 and February 9, 2010 when the campaign period started. Besides, this is the Comelec’s website, which should be updated with the latest data considering the importance of their work now.

Image of the Comelec website indicating a figure for registered voters different from both the CCS from the Senatorial Canvass and the CCS from the Presidential / Vice Presidential Canvass.

I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. After all, it might be that the COmelec website was not updated. So I did a double checking using a document I knew to be reliable (or it should be, unless it, too, is faulty). I referred to the Certificate of Canvass in my District, Muntinlupa City.

I checked the registered voters in Mutninlupa as indicated in the Certificate of Canvass for that city, certified by the City Board of Canvassers. It indicated that Muntinlupa City’s registered voters totaled to 291,333, as shown in the image below:

I cross-checked it with the figure in the Comelec website and they matched:

This shows that the data on the Comelec appears to be the correct data since the information pertaining to Muntinlupa City’s voting population is the same with the information contained in the Certificate of Canvass for the same city.

The question now is how come the information in the two Consolidation and Canvassing Servers are not only different from the information in the Comelec website but even different from each other?

It appears that three official sources have their own data with regard to the total number of voting population that the Philippines has. Smartmatic downplays the error in the Presidential and Vice Presidential Canvass as “innocent glitches”. But the fact that it happened also in the Senatorial canvass gives it a more than just an “innocent glitch” flavor. In addition, the error in the Presidential / Vice Presidential Canvass was discovered ahead of the one in the Senatorial Canvass which was even included in the first two reports signed by the Comelec Commissioners. That negligence caused the Comelec Commissioners to affix their seal of approval on something that was erroneous on something as basic as the total registered voters. In the case of the CCS for President and Vice President, the error was found out only after the Senate President did his official task of initializing the server.

Let me clarify though, that even if it does not take a genius to figure out how this error could be used for cheating, I am not saying that these observations are enough to suspect cheating. I am not looking at this as an indication of fraud but rather as an indication of sloppy work on the part of the supplier of the system.

But as the explanation was given that the program mistakenly added the voting population of each level of the reporting (from PCOS to Municipal Board to Provincial Board to National Board, etc.) the layman in me has enough common sense to question that it would take major programming “error” to mistakenly put into the program an instruction to add a mathematical formula (either addition or multiplication) in a field that is supposed to be static.

The so-called IT experts of Smartmatic and (those who worship them) want us to believe and take in hook line and sinker all that they say. I would want to, but I only believe something after it has passed scrutiny using my educated and ignorant questions. So far, some of their answers to questions have only bred more questions (like Mr. Flores’ explanation about the wrong date stamps on ERs being caused by clocks resetting while in transit. I countered that if a clock is reset, it is reset to a default “beginning of time” such as 01/01/1900 and not just resetting to a few days or few months back from the correct time. But that’s another story…)

Once more, with feeling…I am not complaining that I was cheated. I am not accusing anyone of cheating. But I do say that there’s enough to accuse someone of sloppy work. Sloppy work that the Filipino people are going to pay more than 7 Billion Pesos for.

Some people would probably ask, what should we do then? Well, I say we tell those who are responsible that they have sloppy work and tell them that right in their faces. Then we find ways to penalize them. Because if we take a lackadaisical attitude towards this negligence (or much worse, if we take their side and even defend their errors), it will surely come back and thumb its nose in our faces again in 2013.

I’m Still for Automation in 2013

Posted in Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on May 24, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

We just concluded another session of the hearing in Congress regarding the 2010 Elections. Incidentally, the hearing is entitled, “The May 10, 2010 Automated Elections : An Assessment “.

This means that the hearing is convened not just as a venue for those complaining about alleged election fraud. It also serves to see how the Automated Election System, Smartmatic and Comelec performed in the recent elections. That’s why I’m participating in the hearing, not to complain, but to do an assessment coming from the point of view of a candidate and policy maker.

As I was going out of the hearing room, I was asked by a reporter, “Sir, do you still think that we should automate the elections in 2013?” My immediate answer is “Yes, I think we should still automate the elections in 2013!”

The reporter seemed to have been expecting a different answer. “Sir, aren’t you concerned that with all of the allegations coming out in this hearing, there will be cheating again in 2013?” She added that with the critical questions I’ve been asking it seemed that I was against automation.

“I want automated elections”, I said. “With the manual system, I already know there’s cheating and it’s difficult to control that because at every step of the way, there is human intervention. And that’s the dangerous part, human intervention.” I went further to tell her that all we need to do with the Automated Election System is to put into place additional safeguards and correct its flaws in order to become more reliable and secure. If we can design it in such a way that there is least opportunity for human intervention, it would be good for us.

I further reminded the reporter that at this time, all we are listening to are allegations of fraud which have yet to be pursued through the legal processes and proven as actually having occurred. “We should look at these hearings as an opportunity to answer questions that could either clarify issues or improve the system.”

I believe the best time to do the evaluation is immediately after the elections where the interest and desire to look into the issues are still high. If we let months pass by, it will surely be relegated to the dustbin of our memories and remain unresolved, only to be pulled out again as an issue that needs to be addressed at the last minute before the next elections.

I would like to see automated elections in this country succeed. That is why I’m asking my questions during these hearings because I want it to be implemented in the next elections. I don’t want to give naysayers a reason to say that the system is a hopelessly flawed system and therefore, the justification to go back to the manual method.

With only about a month left in my term, I would like to be able to do my part as a policy maker, an overseer of the people’s interest in Congress, and earn my pay by doing my duty up to the very last day. This is not about whining after a defeat. It is about doing my sworn duty and contributing to the security of the next generation’s future.

In the Philippines, There Are No Victims of Cheating, Just Sore Losers

Posted in Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

At the risk of sounding too redundant and defensive, I would like to once again categorically state that I have long accepted the fact that I did not make it to the circle of winning senators in the recently concluded elections and that I have not filed any protest case to question the results. I want to make that clear in order to preclude any judgment on what I write in this article.

There has never been an election in the Philippines where there isn’t anyone who cries “I’ve been cheated” after losing their electoral race. Immediately after the proclamations, or sometimes even before, you will hear candidates howl in protest against what they claim are votes that have been stolen from them. Some engage in mass action, some use the media, while others take legal action and file electoral protests in the courts, the Comelec or the electoral tribunals.

Indeed, these accusations of cheating has become as regular as the elections itself that Filipinos, with our brilliance in satire and sarcasm, came up with a cliché—“In Philippine elections there are no losers…just the winners and the cheated”. Perhaps many would agree to that statement, fueled by the seemingly inherent disdain for politicians.

With that kind of attitude towards losing politicians, we can take the cliché even further. We can even say that in the Philippines, there are no victims of cheating…just sore losers. After all, that’s how we look at those claiming that they’ve been cheated—sore losers.

But there lies the contradiction. While we look down upon those who claim to have been cheated, we also believe as truth that in the Philippines, there are politicians who get to where they are because of cheating. The disdain that people have of politicians who claim to have been cheated is the same disdain that people have of politicians who are generally seen as cheaters, liars and stealers.

So in a society where people generally believe that politicians cheat and yet dismiss as sore losers those who claim to have been cheated, where will a victim of cheating get justice? We might as well abolish the mechanism of filing election protests.

Even the Comelec, which is mandated to ensure clean and honest elections, easily dismiss those who claim to have been cheated. The most recent example is the 2010 elections where we see claims of fraud and cheating being treated lightly, even with ridicule, by Comelec officials. Instead of lending at least a listening ear, they greet the complaints with sarcastic tongues.

We seem to have been pushed to callousness in our attitudes towards election cheating to the point that while we accept as reality that there are cheaters in our midst, we do not care enough to act on eradicating it.

After the experience of my father with Dagdag-Bawas in 1995 and Hello Garci in 2004, I can empathize with those who cry foul during elections, although I am certain that not all have real basis to make the claim. But there are those who do have experienced the injustice of having been victimized. After all the money spent and the sweat, tears and sometimes even blood that they have shed, losing candidates do have a right to cry for justice if they feel aggravated. Of course, that right is accompanied by the obligation and responsibility to justify their claim.

Automation of the counting seems to be our placebo, with the quick reporting of results lulling us into the belief that cheating has been eradicated in the country. We must remember that the PCOS machines did not wipe away from this earth those whose objectives are to be able to make the elections have a predetermined outcome and benefit from that ability, whether to earn money or win a position. The PCOS machine did not drive away the evil mind which will use its creativity to attain its ends.

Let me state for the record that I am all for automation. I was one of those who supported and pushed for the passage of the automation law and am grateful to have been part of the Congress which passed it.

Cheating in elections has always been driven by the intentions of men, not the abilities of the system. The manual system or the automated system are just neutral tools to be used to achieve the goal of recording the votes. It is the human hand behind the tool which will determine if it will be a tool for evil or righteousness.

While I am not casting doubt on the integrity of the Commisison on Elections’ present commissioners and officials, let us not forget that history has shown us that evil intent knows no boundaries and may penetrate even the high levels of leadership. It is up to us whether we allow that to prosper or not. As another cliché goes, all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

In conclusion, let me restate that I have moved on as far as my candidacy is concerned. In fact, I am looking forward to the future and will prepare for the next challenge by looking back to the past to review where I made mistakes in order to learn from them.

It is in the same vein that I am hoping we are not overwhelmed by the euphoria of the quick election results and lulled into a sense of security that henceforth, cheating has been rendered extinct.

Now is the time for us to thoroughly review this automated election system. Every observation of a flaw, whether real or perceived, should be looked into. Complaints of cheating using the system, whether believable or not, should be given the benefit of close scrutiny and not mere dismissal. Because if we fail to ensure that this system is cured of any flaw, then we will all be guilty of passing on a legacy of flawed elections to the next generation.

SMARTMATIC’S NEGLIGENCE TAINTS CREDIBILITY OF AES

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

A curious thing was revealed during the inquiry conducted by the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms. When Smartmatic was asked why there are election returns which bear dates different from the date of the election, they responded by saying that this is a negligible error in that one can still determine the activities of the PCOS machines since the audit logs will show the time frame that it was active.

Simply put, Smartmatic is saying that as long as the audit logs show that the PCOS machine was active only during an twelve-hour period corresponding to the official voting and counting schedule of the elections, there is nothing to be concerned about the election returns having a wrong date and time stamp.

The Smartmatic official’s reply merited not only a terse but a harsh retort from an obviously irritated chairman of the committee Congressman Teddy Locsin Jr., who pointed out that the official’s answer was “ridiculous”. He observed that the erroneous dates on the ER is a breach of security for the election returns. I totally agree.

Logically, the importance of the date stamp on the election returns cannot be downplayed. It is supposed to be the proof that the ballots were read and counted on election day, May 10, 2010. In the old, manual system, the dates manually written determines whether a document is credible or not. In an automated system, it should not be any different. The machine should correctly and faithfully record date and time of the activities of the machine.

Smartmatic tried to downplay the presentation of ERs with wrong dates by saying that with more than 80,000 machines being deployed from their warehouse in Cabuyao where the dates of the machines are supposed to be programmed, there is bound to be a certain percentage which will have errors. What percentage they deem allowable and how many they have actually found to have wrong dates, they did not reveal.

To me, it is an unacceptable excuse. It speaks of poor quality control and security on their part. Setting the correct time in the internal clock of each PCOS machine is an act that should be part of standard operating procedures especially in quality control for such expensive and high-tech equipment. It is expected that it is part of their S.O.P. for the clocks to be programmed in the correct setting before the units are sent to the different jurisdictions.

What makes it really unacceptable is that the law, Republic Act 9369, commonly known as the Automated Elections Law, prescribes that the election returns “shall also show the date of the election” (Section 32). In Section 2 of the law, where terms are defined, Election Return is defined as “a document in electronic and printed form directly produced by the counting machine, showing the date of the election…”

In the election return churned out by the PCOS machine, the only space provided for the manual entry of information are spaces for the signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and the pollwatchers. There is no space for manual entry of the date because the intention is for the machine to automatically put a date and time stamp on the document, supposedly as an added measure of security against fraud.

In my own district there were seven election returns with wrong dates. I won overwhelmingly in my district, placing first among all the senatorial candidates (yes, including all the actors), and my father also won in all precincts. But I do not hesitate to question the performance of Smartmatic particularly on the issue of the wrong date/time stamps. I can perfectly understand the outburst of Cong. Teddy Locsin against the Smartmatic officials, especially since he personally pushed hard for the automated elections.

But such negligence should not be tolerated. Smartmatic should be sanctioned for this irresponsible act which now jeopardizes the credibility of the automated election system and possibly even its results. It would be unfortunate if it comes out that Smartmatic may not be smart after all.