Comelec: No national election results in 48 hours

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.

Random audit

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.

Additional burden

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.

‘Democratized’ counting

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

Corruption—A Social & Moral Cancer (2)

Corruption–A Social & Moral Cancer (1)

JPEPA RATIFICATION PUTS RP IN MORE DANGER VS GLOBAL CRISIS

Contrary to Pres. Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, research group IBON Foundation says it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

JPEPA and similar free trade deals further opens the local economy to more foreign plunder and drags the country to the global crisis worsened by trade and investment liberalization, said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Bilateral deals like JPEPA enables beleaguered countries like Japan to pass their crisis to other economies in the region through more liberalization.

Even as Japan claims that it is on the way to recovery, its economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. The emerging scenario of a US economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

The experience of the country with similar free trade deals such as the GATT-WTO, which the Senate ratified in 1994, has proven that no amount of safety nets could protect the economy and people’s livelihood from the harmful effects of liberalization.

According to Africa, it is ironic that the Senate ratified the JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization. “When will this government learn from the harmful effects of liberalization on the economy?” he asked.

The approval of JPEPA surrenders Philippine sovereignty and will reinforce the country’s backwardness. The country will be further prevented from implementing economic policies essential for its development and will be obliged to give similar disadvantageous terms in pending deals with the US, European countries and others.

There is no real gain for the Philippines and especially the poorest and most marginalized sectors with JPEPA. In agriculture it is the big corporate plantations that will gain and not the country’s millions of small farmers, Africa added.

To protect and build the domestic economy, the country needs trade protection against imports such as tariff and non-tariff barriers and investment controls, and not free trade deals like JPEPA that only further expose the country and deepen its links to the failing global economy. (end)

IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements.



IBON ON JPEPA RATIFICATION: GOV’T HAS CLEARLY NOT LEARNED ITS LESSON

It is not surprising but still disappointing that the government has clearly not learned its lesson. The current global turmoil and its impact on the Philippines underscore the vulnerability of our economy. The country is extremely vulnerable because of nearly three decades of reckless “free market” policies of globalization.

Progressive groups warned in 1994 about the damage that a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal would cause. Yet the government insisted on ratifying the deal and even implemented policies opening up the economy beyond what the WTO agreement required. The so-called safety nets were ineffectual and local industry and agriculture has been devastated causing unprecedented joblessness.

The economy’s fundamentals are very weak and will be weakened further by JPEPA and other such deals to come. The country’s historic jobs crisis will worsen, more Filipinos will be forced to try and find work abroad, millions more will suffer poverty and deprivation.

We condemn the surrender of the country’s sovereignty and patrimony by the government through JPEPA. The country’s negotiators have absurdly given up nationalist and protectionist policy measures that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for instance held on to in their respective trade deals with Japan.

The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of solidarity, mutual benefit and development for those who have long suffered poverty and backwardness. The JPEPA however is a treasonous deal that must be completely rejected.



INCREASED BUDGET FOR THE POOR URGED AMID GLOBAL CRISIS

With the worsening crisis of the US and global economy expected to further aggravate poverty in the country, independent think-tank IBON Foundation today said that it has become more crucial for government to ensure enough resources are spent for the poor.

IBON said that the Arroyo administration must start by increasing the allocation for social services in the 2009 national budget. The group criticized the allocation of 2.5% of the total budget for health; 13% for education; and 0.4% for housing as atrociously low especially in today’s environment of rapidly rising prices and greater economic uncertainty.

IBON said that the perennially low budget allocation for social services will have a deeper repercussion on the poor and vulnerable sectors as the deteriorating global economic crisis destroys more jobs and livelihood and inflates the cost of living.

Experts count slowdown in export demand, tighter flows in foreign investments and increased speculation in food and fuel prices as among the consequences of the US financial crisis and overall slump in the world economy.

With increased poverty, it becomes more urgent for government to provide sufficient social services such as health, education and housing. But the proposed budget levels obviously could not cover the expected increased demand for public schools and hospitals among others.

For the past ten years, government has been spending an amount equivalent to 2.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for education, way below the international standards of 5% to 6%. For health, it has been spending only 3.2% of the GDP, lower than the norm set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

IBON said that the government should at least meet these levels to alleviate the present condition in the country seen to worsen with the global crisis. To increase spending for social services, government should put a stop to burdensome payments and cut back on military spending. The proposed budget for 2008 allocates P683 billion for debt principal and interest payment, while it allocates P5 billion for AFP modernization. In contrast, government allots only P30 million for health care asssitance.

The group added the removal of regressive taxes such as the reformed value-added tax (RVAT) on oil is equally urgent to lessen the inflationary impact of the financial crisis.

The Arroyo government should also abandon its proposal for new taxes because these will further burden the Filipinos already suffering from low incomes and spiraling cost of living. IBON also urged the administration not to use the global crisis as an excuse to impose more taxes in its effort to achieve a balanced budget.



Gov’t to sell remaining Petron stake

MANILA, Philippines — The government has decided to sell its 40-percent stake in Petron Corp., the country’s biggest oil refiner, and is looking to get about P25 billion ($530 million), the finance secretary said.

London-based Ashmore Group, which owns slightly over 50 percent of the company, has right of first refusal, Margarito Teves told reporters late Tuesday.

“The Privatization Council approved the sale on Tuesday,” he said. “Hopefully, we can book the proceeds by December. Hopefully we can get P25 billion.”

SEA Refinery Holdings BV, owned by Ashmore Investment Management Limited, agreed to buy a 40-percent stake in Petron from Saudi Aramco for $550 million earlier this year.

In June, it offered to buy the remaining 60-percent stake, or 5.63 billion shares, in Petron at P6.531 per share.

Under Philippine corporate laws, an entity buying a 30-percent stake in any company must make a tender offer for the rest of the company.

At the end of the tender offer in July, SEA Refinery received tenders for a total of 990.98 million common shares, or a total of P6.5 billion, from minority shareholders, the company said in a statement to the stock exchange.

At the time, the government did not participate in the tender, saying it was hoping for a better price. Ashmore’s holding in Petron is now at 50.57 percent.

($1 = P47.26)MANILA, Philippines — The government has decided to sell its 40-percent stake in Petron Corp., the country’s biggest oil refiner, and is looking to get about P25 billion ($530 million), the finance secretary said.

London-based Ashmore Group, which owns slightly over 50 percent of the company, has right of first refusal, Margarito Teves told reporters late Tuesday.

“The Privatization Council approved the sale on Tuesday,” he said. “Hopefully, we can book the proceeds by December. Hopefully we can get P25 billion.”

SEA Refinery Holdings BV, owned by Ashmore Investment Management Limited, agreed to buy a 40-percent stake in Petron from Saudi Aramco for $550 million earlier this year.

In June, it offered to buy the remaining 60-percent stake, or 5.63 billion shares, in Petron at P6.531 per share.

Under Philippine corporate laws, an entity buying a 30-percent stake in any company must make a tender offer for the rest of the company.

At the end of the tender offer in July, SEA Refinery received tenders for a total of 990.98 million common shares, or a total of P6.5 billion, from minority shareholders, the company said in a statement to the stock exchange.

At the time, the government did not participate in the tender, saying it was hoping for a better price. Ashmore’s holding in Petron is now at 50.57 percent.

($1 = P47.26)