By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:40:00 04/16/2010
MANILA, Philippines—In the automated elections on May 10, the mindset is that the winners would be known in a jiffy.
Well, not exactly.
Results will be posted pronto in real time as they are spewed out by a computing machine on a website, to be announced later, but these will be from each one of the 76,000 precincts nationwide.
You’ll have to do the addition yourself to know what’s up.
After saying again and again that the results of the automated election system (AES)—meaning contest outcomes—will be known within 48 hours, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said for the first time that in fact this was unlikely to happen.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, speaking at a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap), said the poll body was not required to add up the results of the precinct voting or to provide a running tally on the website.
“We’ll provide the precinct data. That’s more than we’ve ever done before,” Jimenez said.
It doesn’t compute
Alfredo Pascual, convenor of AES Watch, said that the data from the individual precincts, without any summation, would not be of much use considering the sheer number of candidates.
“Try adding that up,” said Pascual. “That doesn’t mean anything.”
He also pointed out the possibility that around 30 percent of the counting machines might encounter glitches, as the Comelec itself has confirmed. In which case, he said, a manual count would have to be done.
In addition, Pascual said that before the proclamation of winners, a “random manual audit” would be undertaken by the board of election inspectors.
This means that in each legislative district, one precinct will be selected and the results there will be manually tabulated, totaled and compared with the automated count to check its accuracy.
Mechanics of this exercise have yet to be hammered out with barely three weeks before election day.
Cesar Flores, spokesperson for Smartmatic-TIM, said the company, as part of its P7.2-billion contract with the Comelec, will make available the website where the results from the precincts will be posted as they come in.
Website for precinct results
Flores, in an interview with the Inquirer, said the website will be announced a few days before the elections.
On the website for the 2008 Venezuelan elections, the company showed consolidated results, Flores said, but the Comelec had refused to put consolidated results on its website to discourage trending while the proclamation of national winners is pending.
The Comelec, he said, does not want to be accused of overstepping the duties of the Congress, which counts and proclaims the winners of the presidential and vice presidential races.
Jimenez said that the Comelec would announce the results of its tally after the canvassing at the municipal and provincial levels are completed, which is expected to be about two to three days after the elections. But the Comelec is only authorized to proclaim the winners up to the senatorial level, he said.
The proclamation of the president and vice president would have to be done by Congress, which is tasked with canvassing the results and which would only convene on May 30.
At the moment, Jimenez said, the poll body’s plan is to just post the precinct results on the website, whose name would only be disclosed on the eve of the elections for security purposes.
The data on the website will play an important part, he said, because it provides transparency and helps in fact-checking.
When asked why the poll body would not sum up the results, Jimenez said the Comelec was not required to do so. “As far as transparency is concerned, all of the data is there.”
He also said that if the results of the summation would be included on website, there would have to be a canvassing program included on it. This would be an additional burden for the site, he added.
The absence of an official summation of the election results on the website raised concerns that those who would be counting the votes based on the website data might come up with different figures and create confusion.
Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Comelec’s citizens arm Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said her group and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) would meet to discuss the possibility of conducting a joint tally of the election results.
De Villa also said that with the election data made available to the public at once, the holding of parallel counts had been “democratized.”
“Everyone can do the count,” she said in the same Focap forum, adding that the PPCRV itself would be conducting an internal parallel count. With a report from Kristine L. Alave
MANILA, Philippines — If Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio had reason to cheer, it was because, he said, God listened to his plea.
The Supreme Court Tuesday ordered the Commission on Elections to stop its planned recount of votes in the 2007 Pampanga gubernatorial elections, and directed the Comelec to maintain the status quo while the court deliberates on Panlilio’s petition to nullify the recount.
The high court also ordered the Comelec and Pineda to file within 10 days their comments to Panlilio’s petition.
Panlilio has said Pineda’s electoral protest was a “sham” and not based on any clear proof of cheating.
Pineda lost by 1,147 votes to Panlilio, a Catholic priest.
“We are very happy. God has answered our prayers,” Panlilio told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.
Panlilio’s lawyers said they were grateful to the Supreme Court for its swift action on their client’s petition. They assailed the Comelec orders allowing the recount to proceed.
The lawyers included Romulo Macalintal, Leila de Lima, Pete Quadra, Sixto Brillantes and Ernesto Francisco Jr.
“We are confident that in the end, we could prove that the protest is without basis and merely intended to harass Panlilio,” the lawyers said in a statement.
In his petition, Panlilio said the frivolity of Pineda’s protest “is demonstrated by the fact that private respondent is contesting all the precincts in all the municipalities and cities in Pampanga (except Angeles City) and she even identified a total of 4,836 precincts in (her) petition.”
“If true, this means that (Pineda) is claiming that she was cheated in all these 4,836 precincts without any objection from her watchers or without questioning before the Board of Election Inspectors … which is a very incredible and unbelievable claim indeed.”
In a July 2007 directive, the Comelec’s second division ordered a recount of ballots pursuant to Pineda’s protest and later denied Panlilio’s motion for a reconsideration.
It also rejected Panlilio’s motion to elevate the issue to the Comelec en banc.
“Aside from being merely copied from other existing election protests, the grounds are bare, general and scattered and intended merely to fish for evidence during the recount of ballots,” Panlilio’s lawyers said.
Half a million votes
The lawyers said Pineda’s claim that ballots from about 4,500 precincts, totaling some 500,000, were written by one or two persons “is incredible since not a single ballot was objected to by Pineda when they were counted at the precinct level.”
“Also, how could Panlilio, who merely relied on volunteers and contributions from concerned citizens of Pampanga, be guilty of vote buying? Surely the protest is baseless,” they added.
Pineda lawyer George Irwin Garcia said he had yet to receive a copy of the high court’s order but if true, “we cannot do anything but obey.”
Pineda could not be reached for comment. She went to the United States two weeks ago.
She had claimed that Panlilio and his supporters committed various forms of election fraud.
Provincial election supervisor Temie Lambino said he had yet to receive a copy of the SC order.
Lambino previously set a meeting for Thursday to decide whether to proceed with the inventory and transfer of contested ballot boxes to Manila.
Panlilio on Tuesday asked his supporters after a Mass to “be sober” and not to hold protests at the Comelec.
ILOILO CITY, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has junked an appeal of former assemblyman Arturo Pacificador for a stop to the proclamation of Antique Governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez.
In a five-page ruling promulgated on January 24 by the Comelec en banc, the poll body affirmed the May 28, 2007 resolution of the Comelec’s Second Division denying Pacificador’s petition to suspend the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of Perez.
The Comelec resolution, signed by then Acting Chair Resurreccion Borra and concurred with by Commissioners Florentino Tuason Jr., Romeo Brawner, Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer and Moslemen Macarambon, said the suspension of canvassing and proclamation “has already been mooted” by the proclamation and assumption to office of Perez.
A special provincial board of canvassers proclaimed Perez on June 29, 2007 with a margin of more than 13,000 votes over Pacificador based on results from the province’s 1,855 precincts.
Pacificador petitioned for the suspension of canvassing of votes and the proclamation of Perez until the full resolution of a disqualification case he filed against Perez.
Both the former assemblyman and former representative Jovito Plameras Jr., who also ran but lost in the gubernatorial elections, sought the disqualification of Perez and seven of her party mates in the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) for allegedly violating the ban on public spending during the election period.
However, the Comelec’s First Division dismissed on January 25, 2007 the disqualification case for lack of merit.
In its January 24 resolution dismissing Pacificador’s appeal, the Comelec affirmed its Resolution No. 8062 that provided that there would be no suspension of proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases.
The Comelec said the suspension of proclamation of winning candidates “may only be made where sufficient justification warrants that interference be made.”
It said Pacificador’s petition failed to provide proof that would justify the suspension of any proclamation.
Solon cites many trips to China for golf, sex
MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. may have played a key role in the ZTE Corp. of China bagging the country’s national broadband network (NBN) project with a $329-million bid, an opposition congressman Wednesday said.
“Apparently, Chairman Abalos’ unofficial trips to China courtesy of ZTE and his golf games with the officers of ZTE can hardly be characterized as just friendly and totally innocuous. He was a man on a mission,” Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said in a privilege speech.
“Could it be that that mission is worth P15 billion?” he asked. The NBN project would connect all government offices.
Padilla said Abalos played golf with executives of the Chinese telecommunications firm in Shenzhen and in Mandaluyong City where the Comelec chair once served as mayor just “weeks before April 2007” when the contract was signed.
Padilla cited a column by Jarius Bondoc in the Philippine Star on an unnamed election official who reportedly negotiated the NBN deal while he played golf and had sex with women in Shenzhen.
“If this matter is investigated by the House, I suggest that this be made a required reading of the members of the House,” Padilla said.
Abalos laughed off the allegation that he was the Comelec official who acted as a conduit between the government and ZTE to seal the NBN deal.
On the phone, he was full of mirth as he said: “I feel flattered. I didn’t know I am that influential.”
Abalos said he could not imagine himself as someone who could influence members of the Cabinet like Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.
Abalos also heartily laughed when he said he “wished” he could be the person, who was mentioned in the newspaper column as someone with the “sexual prowess” to handle two women in one day.
“That would make my wife very happy. You know, I am not at all affected by these allegations. It’s really laughable. One [partner] in the morning, and another in the evening?” he said, chuckling.
“At my age, I am already 73, why would I do that?” he added.
Ready to face probe
Nonetheless, Abalos said he would face whatever investigation Padilla or the House of Representatives would initiate.
On April 21, 2007, which was covered by the election period during which no government contract should be signed, Mendoza and Yu Yong, ZTE vice president, inked the $329-million deal in ceremonies witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Boao, China.
Asked if the ZTE contract was legal even if it was signed at the height of the election campaign, Abalos said it would have to be looked into.
“We can’t immediately say if it’s allowed or not because we don’t even know if that is just an understanding or a contract. We have to see it first,” he said.
Two other companies — Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) and US-based Arescom — came up with proposals of $240 million and $135 million, respectively, to undertake the NBN project.
Padilla said the Filipino firm AHI submitted an unsolicited bid under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) but the offer was set aside “despite the fact that under the BOT Law, the agency concerned is mandated to review the BOT proposal within a fixed period.”
E-Procurement Law violated?
Padilla said the E-Procurement Law was also violated because the award in favor of ZTE failed to go through an “honest-to-goodness” bidding process.
“There was no competition, no fight, nothing that would have ensured that the Filipino people will get the most of the taxes they are always constrained to cough up,” he said.
Padilla said the representative of AHI, which proposed to undertake the NBN through the BOT scheme, was asked to withdraw its unsolicited proposal to the DOTC.
Padilla said that weeks before the ZTE-NBN deal was signed, Abalos traveled unofficially to China.
“According to sources, ZTE Corp. paid for the hotel accommodations of Abalos. It was then unclear why Abalos was traveling to China, why he was doing so unofficially, and why ZTE Corp. was apparently sponsoring his trips,” the lawmaker said in his speech.
“On several occasions earlier this year, Chairman Abalos was also seen playing golf with officials of ZTE at a golf club in Mandaluyong City and in Shenzen, China. Obviously, this was more than a mere coincidence,” he added.
Padilla said Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III of the DOTC made up the story about the ZTE-NBN contract getting lost with four other agreements signed in Boao.
He said Formoso made the claim before a round-table discussion at the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati City.
“Probably taken aback by the reaction of those present … (Formoso) almost immediately declared that there was no need to worry. He promised to make available copies of the reconstituted pertinent agreement,” the lawmaker said.
Contrary to Formoso’s announcements, Padilla said Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol said the NBN project would not push through because there was no contract.
Favila, for his part, also said that what was signed in Boao was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and not a contract with ZTE.
“The day after (Apostol’s announcement) Mendoza and Formoso in an interview with the Inquirer practically made liars of Favila and (Apostol) when they declared that an MOU and supply contract with regard to the NBN had, in fact, been executed between the government and ZTE,” Padilla said.
Padilla noted that Mendoza and Formoso earlier said that the contract had been reconstituted.
“Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Formoso lied. The Department of Justice reviewed the transaction not the agreements,” Padilla said.
MANILA, Philippines — Former T/Sgt. Vidal Doble Wednesday jumped the gun on the Senate’s plan to reopen the “Hello Garci” wiretap inquiry.
Doble named Smart Communications Inc. as the telephone company allegedly used by military intelligence in 2004 to listen in on the conversations of targets like former Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
“I don’t think the top executive of Smart knows about the operation,” he said.
Was Garcillano using a Smart number? “Yes,” Doble said.
Were all the numbers given to them to listen to all of Smart subscribers?
“Yes,” he added.
Doble, an agent of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) who provided the opposition in 2005 with the “master files” of the controversial tracks, said his mother unit had a contact inside the telecommunications firm.
He claimed the ISAFP mole made the splitting of conversation signals possible from Smart’s network structure — one signal going to the subject subscriber and the person he or she was talking with, and the other signal going to ISAFP’s Nokia 3600 listening device.
“Definitely, there was somebody from Smart who was involved in the operation,” Doble told reporters in an undisclosed venue in Makati City.
Smart denied it had conducted any such activity.
The “Hello Garci” tapes are alleged recordings of phone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Garcillano which the opposition claims proved they connived to tamper with the results of the 2004 presidential election.
Despite Ms Arroyo’s and Garcillano’s denials, the issue has refused to die and continues to hover like an ominous cloud over the Arroyo presidency.
Doble said his superiors in the ISAFP’s Military Intelligence Group 21 at that time — Col. Paul Sumayo and Capt. Frederick Windell Rebong — gave MIG 21 members a set of mobile numbers to “monitor,” using a wiretap system involving a cell phone, its memory chip and a computer.
According to Doble, the ISAFP only targets members of the telco staff with technical know-how and with access to the “mainframe.”
“We have what we call spotting. We look for who we can recruit, we look for his weakness and then we use that weakness to make him work for us,” Doble said.
Doble said it was Rebong who coordinated with the ISAFP contact in the mobile communication service provider. The captain has since gone on military schooling abroad.
“We only target technical people. They do not have to be from the top (management) positions,” the former sergeant said.
Top AFP officers know
Doble said it wasn’t so in the intelligence service. The top officers must have known about MIG 21’s wiretapping operations.
“The only ones who talked to us were Colonel Sumayo and Captain Rebong,” he said. “But definitely, the other generals must know what we were doing, from (Vice Adm.) Tirso Danga, the J-2 [operations chief], down to (then) ISAFP chief Marlou Quevedo and the then chief of intelligence operations Col. Allen Capuya.”
Doble added that the officers would know who authorized the wiretap operation, called “Project Lighthouse,” and why.
“We were not told why we would do the operation. We were just given a set of numbers and were told to look after the conversations,” he said.
When Arroyo called
Doble said he was not the one who wiretapped Garcillano.
“I was just ordered to stand guard and listen in,” he said.
He said his job entailed listening in, transcribing the conversations, and recording them in a logbook.
Doble said MIG 21 agents were divided into four groups to do round-the-clock monitoring of the cell phones whose numbers they were given.
He said that when he and the members of his team heard Ms Arroyo call Garcillano and talk about the counting of votes, they alerted their superiors.
’Mother of all tapes’
“Captain Rebong asked that a duplicate copy be made. He said they would already be the ones to handle it,” Doble said.
Doble said the original recordings — the “mother of all tapes” — should still be with the ISAFP.
“That is, if it has not yet been destroyed,” he said.
The original recordings, Doble said, were on cassette and contained the unedited recordings of Ms Arroyo’s and Garcillano’s conversations.
“We were monitoring Garci’s phone. We only got to hear the President when she called up Garcillano,” Doble said.
Lacson has original copy
Doble said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who presented to the Senate the other day Doble’s video testimony about the tapes, has a copy of the original recordings.
Doble said what he gave former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Samuel Ong — who had claimed to be holding “the mother of all tapes” — were “the master files.”
He said the master files were recordings of selected conversations tagged with identifying headers.
Doble said the ISAFP could make new master files if the unedited, original recordings still existed.
‘We were appalled’
He said all the conversations between Ms Arroyo and Garcillano that he knew about were already in the master files he gave Ong.
“All of us (soldiers in MIG 21) were appalled when we heard the President talk with Garcillano,” Doble said.
“We asked ourselves, how come this was happening?”
Doble said that when a soldier was caught cheating in a written test during schooling, he was discharged from the military.
“How come the Commander in Chief was caught involved in cheating?” Doble said.
He asked for forgiveness from Bishop Teodoro Bacani who received him and Ong at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City in June 2005 when they sought refuge when they were about to announce that they had the “mother of all the tapes.”
Family held hostage
Doble said he had to turn back because he learned that the Arroyo administration had held his family hostage.
“How could I have pulled the trigger when they were hiding behind my family?” Doble said.
He said that on June 12, 2005, Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas arrived at the seminary in a helicopter.
“He asked me how I was. He asked me if I wanted to see my family. I said, ‘yes,’” Doble said.
Doble said Villegas accompanied him to the quarters of then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Efren Abu.
“It was in the basement where I saw my family — my wife and two children,” Doble said.
“I was at a loss. I told my wife they should have stayed in Kidapawan,” he added.
Doble expressed doubt that Villegas was in on the conspiracy to force him to back out from his plan to present himself as the source of the wiretapped recordings.
“I think he was just requested to help by taking me to my family,” Doble said.
When he was taken into military custody, Doble said he was debriefed.
“I was dictated upon what to say,” Doble said.
He said he was told to declare that he was threatened by Ong to come out with the tape.
“The truth was the threat came from (the administration and the military leadership),” Doble said.
He said it was difficult for him to face the congressional inquiry.
“I lied when I said there was a threat from Attorney Ong,” Doble said.
“It was difficult to lie. You saw how I was at the stand,” he added referring to how he dodged questions from congressmen to keep himself from saying the Garci tapes were authentic.
Doble said the situation was different now.
He’s still not quite confident about the security of his family but he’s no longer a part of the military.
‘Tape is for real’
“I feel that I’m already free,” Doble said.
As for his family, he said he didn’t know their status. “I’ve yet to be in touch with them in a long time.”
Lacson on Tuesday said that Doble’s family was secure in an undisclosed location.