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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.


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.

A Leader’s Integrity

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , on January 11, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

I have experienced it many times, so much that it has become a concern…I say that integrity is an important quality that our next president should have, there would be someone who would object and say, “it is not enough that the president has integrity”. They then emphasize that it should be competence that should first be considered.

I don’t argue against competence being a requirement for a president. In fact, all public officials should be competent. That is an undisputable proposition. But why the seemingly hostile reaction to the statement that a president should be trustworthy?

Why isn’t it possible for these people to say, “yes I agree that a President should possess a high degree of integrity, as well as competence.” Why does it have to be an Either/Or debate?

In selecting a president, it should not be a matter of choosing between integrity and competence. The two should go hand in hand because our country needs a leader who can govern with skill and at the same time the people need a leader whom they can trust.

But for public officials, there is a higher degree of expectation with regard to integrity. In the Philippine Constitution, Article XI, Section 1 states in the first sentence “Public office is a public trust”. By this simple six word sentence, the framers of the Constitution the most important benchmark for those who serve the People—trust.

It does not need to be emphasized that competence is a requirement for public officials. It even comes naturally. It is a rare occasion that an incompetent person rises to the higher levels of public service. Just getting oneself elected has some credit for competence because not everyone can run for office and win. But of course, we should not settle for mediocrity and still demand a high standard of competence for public officials.

Incompetence has no place in public service. But just for the sake of argument, a less competent leader may still be effective by tapping the expertise and competence of those around him. In fact, one of the best qualities of a leader is the ability to harness the talents of those around and under him. Leaders are not expected to do all the work themselves but to gather the strengths of their team to collectively deliver to their constituents.

But integrity is a quality that is exclusive to a person. It cannot be augmented by those who surround the leader. It cannot be borrowed and it cannot be sourced out. That’s why there is a need for it to be a primary consideration aside from other qualities we should look for in a leader.

Which brings me back to the question which prompted me to write this in the first place…why can’t people simply agree that integrity has a premium in the selection of the next president of the country? Why are there counter arguments, justifications, qualifying statements and what-have-you against the statement that integrity is a primary consideration?

For the record, I value competence in a leader. I will not settle for incompetence. But the competent leader should be trustworthy. So will the competent leader with unquestionable integrity please stand up?