They gathered together from all over –think-tank leaders of the country’s top universities identified with groups like CENPEG and AES and the math society and the Philippine Computer Society, farmer leaders and columnists, military and ecclesiastical types but gardeners all; they came together, discussed and agreed: the oligarchic structure of our society is the root cause of all our social problems. We live in the classic set-up of a few rich daily getting richer while the majority hardly make it out of the poverty trap. Humongous in character as this socio-economic problem has been down through the 19th and 20th centuries, the real solution must still be political in nature  – the assertion of power by the majority populace, or the practice of truly democratic politics.

But can there be democratic politics in an electoral setting where people do not know – cannot know – what happens to their votes, whether freely given or freely bought?

According to these Gardeners, who recently started a new movement: “Everything’s wrong with the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS).” For two straight elections now, voters could not know what happened to their votes. More particularly, they said that the PCOS system is:

ILLEGAL – The Commission on Elections (or Comelec) violated the Automated Election System (AES) Act of 2008, which required “the most appropriate technology for our setting.” This surely meant a technology that automates the canvassing (municipal/city, provincial, national) of votes and the transmission of the results. This was to eliminate vote padding or vote shaving (dagdag bawas) and ballot box snatching or ballot box stuffing. What happened, instead, the past two elections was:  the technology COMELEC used, namely, the PCOS – actually   hijacked the precinct balloting and vote tallying.

EXPENSIVE – The first breach of law led to others: fraudulent bidding, contracting a mere vendor (Smartmatic Corp.) instead of the developer, overpriced purchase of election paraphernalia (cardboard ballots, special ink, compact flash cards, printers, portable transmitters, even supposed ballot-secrecy folders if not exposed, etc.). Logistics services too were overpriced; warehousing the PCOS alone cost P200,000,000 a year.  The cost of Elections zoomed — P8.9 billion in 2010 to  P11.3 billion in 2013 and double the amount being asked for 2016. Yet till now no voter knows if his vote truly was counted.

INACCURATE – The AES Act required an accuracy rate of 99.995%, or only one tolerable error per 20,000 marks. The best showing by the PCOS, in the July 24-25, 2012, dry run in Congress, was 557 errors per 20,000 marks.

Smartmatic hid the PCOS source code from experts’ review. On Election Day its technicians, not the Board of Election Inspectors (or BEI), activated the machines in 82,600 precinct clusters.

Voters did not see how their votes were counted. The BEIs could not verify what they signed for.

The Comelec and Smartmatic removed other safeguards against fraud: like ultraviolet light to detect fake ballots, and BEI’s passwords, etc.

The PCOS that was already vulnerable to internal manipulation had fraudulent results. For instance, contrary to traditional voting preferences due to regionalism, religion, and economic class, the 2013 senatorial race showed a 60-30-10% trend for administration-opposition-independents— uniform in all provinces, districts, cities, towns, and precincts.

Had the Comelec completed the canvass, which they conveniently stopped without justification, there would have been “more ballots cast than total number of  voters.”  To hide or prevent this, the Comelec had to stop and did stop the precinct count at 56% and the canvassing at 42%. No wonder it also had to lower the number of ballots cast from 38,998,998 to 31,568,679.

The Gardeners understood the implications: “We don’t want any more fake leaders. We want accurate, transparent, speedy elections — to reduce chances of cheating. But we must junk the PCOS that in 2010 and 2013 were fast only in producing questionable results. We must amend the Automated Election System (AES) Act — now, in time for 2016. We should automate only the canvassing and transmission at municipal/city, provincial and national levels; count manually at the precinct for full transparency!” 

The movement will soon gather momentum, the Gardeners promised. For who wants fraudulently “(Com)elected” officials? This tale of massive fraudulence is such a shame – on both fake leaders and failing state, and on a manipulated and confused populace.    FINIS

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