Where are you going, SMARTMATIC-COMELEC?  Where are you taking us?

Manila, April 6th 2022 – The Commission on Elections, the government’s poll watchdog, will conduct an “opening of books” of voters’ lists nationwide starting April 18 to 29, newly appointed Commissioner George Garcia said Tuesday, April 5th. Garcia made the statement as he discussed the layers of security in light of the concern that some deceased individuals may still be included on the voters’ list.

A very old concern which has not been satisfactorily addressed by COMELEC is the matter of Bloated Voters Registration first exposed by the late Dr. Gil Rosero Ramos (Dr Gil). Taking as benchmark the purged 1995 Voters’ Lists which were used for the elections of 1998 and 2001, he compared what happened to the growth of the lists in the period between the elections of 2013 and 2016 and in that between 2016 and 2019.

He pointed out that blatant vote padding anomaly done under the COMELEC can immediately be gleaned from the fact that while expected growth in age qualified registrants for the interval from 2016 to 2019 was just 2.2 million, the growth of registered voters for that interval was recorded at 9.3 million. According to Gil, this clearly indicates that 7.1 million padded votes were added to the election registry.

Did the COMELEC try to correct this anomaly? Yes, earlier. In the period 2013 to 2016 the expected growth of registrants was pegged by the stable structural ratios at 2.7 million but the increase in registered voters for this period was only 2.1 million – showing an effort to clean up dying voters from the registry list during this period, perhaps like the effort just announced by Commissioner Garcia. But let us mark this: COMELEC never touched the 7 million padded votes that were already in the election registry between 2013 – 2016.

What Dr. Gil found most disconcerting of all, however, was the revelation of the 2019 data that the change in registered voters to the change in population ratio stood at 202 percent. This meant that the increase in registered voters was more than twice the increase in population.  But the historic normal ratio of the population of voting age to the total population of the country is only fifty percent.

Thus, he no longer had any doubt that our election registries were grossly padded in the millions for both the 2016 and 2019 elections. The registered voters for that interval increased by 9.3 million but the Philippine population increased only by a mere 4.6 million.

Esoteric as this conversation on numbers might sound, Dr. Gil nonetheless shouted his voice hoarse that this pattern where the rate of increase of registered voters is so much larger than the rate of increase in the Philippine population, and where the ratio of registered voters to the Philippine population is more than fifty percent, is associated with fraud-tainted elections.

And yet today, if only Commissioner Garcia would look more closely, the ratio between registered voters and the total population is almost sixty percent – the highest ever – which is totally unreflective of the voting age ratio to total population obtaining in the country today.

He said if the name of a person was included in the book inside a precinct or the election day computerized voters list (EDCVL), the person would be allowed to vote. But if the name was absent in the EDCVL, the person would not be allowed to vote even if his name was in the list posted outside the precinct or the posted computerized voters list (PCVL).

Is that information useful? If the EDCVL and PCVL do not match, Garcia said there might be some irregularities. According to him, some people are changing the PCVL to confuse the voters. So, he has now called on poll watchers and citizens’ arm to participate in the verification of the lists. Unfortunately, however, for such volunteers, Garcia has caveats almost in the nature of warnings.

Garcia said there was a process that must be observed in removing names of deceased voters from the official list of voters: “We cannot immediately remove the names of those who died because of Republic Act 8189 or the continuing registration law. The Comelec cannot automatically remove them.” What then can PPCRV do now?

Garcia explained that the civil registry office of a local government unit has to issue first a certification that an individual has died before his or her name can actually be removed from the list by the poll body’s election registration board.

“Supposed to be, they (civil registry) should be giving regular updates to the Comelec on that matter. However, it does not happen because they do not immediately issue these certifications,” he added.

This came amid concerns that the names of deceased voters who remain on the list may be used for poll cheating by unscrupulous individuals. Doesn’t this make the probability of dead people voting – or made to vote – in the May 9th 2022 elections a very high probability? After so many decades of civilized advance, we are back to that.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported a total of 613,936 recorded deaths in 2020, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It also reported over 700,000 deaths as of November 2021.

Meanwhile, the COMELEC has already tallied 65,745,529 voters in the Philippines, with Calabarzon being the region with the most voters, having 9.1 million voters. The total was almost 4 million more as compared to 2019.

The election body has announced that they will print 67,442,714 ballots, with 1,697,202 of these for overseas absentee voting, while also announcing that it is looking to suspend the holding of the May 9 polls in seven countries for reasons like war and Covid-related lockdowns.

Continuing to bedevil the COMELEC’s responsibilities is the Smartmatic data breach. On January 10, 2022, the Manila Bulletin reported that the COMELEC’s servers were hacked by a group, who downloaded more than 60 gigabytes of data containing usernames and passwords for the vote-counting machines (VCMs) and other sensitive information.

The commission initially denied its servers were breached and asserted that their system has not yet been connected to any network and that no PINs have been generated yet.

Following the report, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) launched its own investigation into the incident. Another investigation by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) asserted that it was not the COMELEC that was hacked, but its software contractor, Smartmatic. Whoa! The investigators failed to inform the people about the “Siamese” twinning of Smartmatic-COMELEC.

So, it was affirmed on April 1st – note the date – that the COMELEC was confirming the Smartmatic breach, but denying that the leaked data were at all related to the upcoming elections, emphasizing that the SD cards for the VCMs – new name for (Hocus) PCOS – were not compromised.

At the same time, COMELEC remained cold to the warm idea of reform through the adoption of a hybrid system composed of manual counting of votes followed by electronic transmission of results, in contrast to the automated counting and transmission system used since 2010. It has instead insisted and persisted in twinning up with Smartmatic or F2 Logistics, a company now associated with Dennis Uy, whom more and more people recognized as the business alter ego of the top honcho of the land.

Is there hope for democracy in the current system? Where has it taken us? Where are we going?                                               -30-