Poll fixers going out of business

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04:05 AM August 9th, 2011

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By: Philip C. Tubeza, August 9th, 2011 04:05 AM

Election fixers, that select group of poll workers with unique talents for addition and subtraction, may soon swell the ranks of the unemployed in the Philippines.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Monday said there was no going back to the old, manual election in the country, with its problems of dagdag-bawas (vote-padding and -shaving), election “operators,” and ballot-switching.

“I can assure the Filipino people that we will no longer go back to manual. If we go back to manual, the operators will again have a fiesta. We will not allow that,” Brillantes said at the Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel forum in Manila.

This means poll cheaters will now have “fewer livelihood” opportunities, he said.

Brillantes said election lawyers, too, “will be saddened.”

“They will no longer have a livelihood postelection,” he said, referring to the numerous election protests filed by election law practitioners on behalf of losing candidates who never seem to concede defeat.

“Sorry na lang sila (Sorry for them),” he added.

Automation works

Brillantes said election lawyers now would be limited to filing disqualification cases and other lawsuits before Election Day.

As proof that the automated election system works, Brillantes said it appeared no election protest filed at the Comelec after the May 2010 elections would prosper.

“So many filed protests but it looks like no protest will win. That’s how I view it,” he said.

Brillantes said the Comelec had started opening contested ballots in these election protests and, so far, there had been no discrepancies found.

“The results did not change. The results of the machines were the same as the proclaimed results,” Brillantes said.

“It’s just that many filed protests because they did not understand why they lost. Now they know. That is why we keep on telling those who are protesting to make sure they have a basis,” he said.

Brillantes said that in manual elections, losing candidates usually could find probable cause because “many things happened before, during, and after” election day.

“Now, when the election results come out, that’s almost it. And this has been confirmed already by all of the electoral protests that are pending in the Comelec and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal,” he said.

2 surviving methods

Brillantes said he only saw two methods of manipulating automated elections: by intimidation and vote-buying.

“That is because automation cannot control that (but) dagdag-bawas, document switching, those are all almost gone,” he said.

Brillantes said the Comelec also wanted to address the “deficiencies” and “glitches” that technology provider Smartmatic-TIM faced in the 2010 elections.

Filipino-made

He said the poll body was even looking at “Filipino-made” automated machines that could be used during the 2013 midterm elections.

“At the rate we are going now, it appears that (Smartmatic) would have a hard time [clinching the contract for the 2013 polls] because we are trying to look for one which is a Filipino-made machine prototype,” Brillantes said.

“Filipinos will run these, which means the Comelec will run the entire election. Before, the machines were imported and Smartmatic practically ran the entire election,” he said. “It appeared that the Commission on Elections only had a supporting role.”

He added: “This time around, it will be different. If there are foreigners that will come in, they will just be in support. The Comelec will take over the main services, including the machine itself if we can provide the machine prototype.”

‘Mission impossible’

Separately, a member of the Comelec-Department of Justice panel that will investigate election fraud during the 2004 and 2007 elections said the probers faced a daunting task.

“I know that we cannot do that. This is going to be beyond human capability to achieve… So, it’s like mission impossible actually,” said Ferdinand Rafanan, the Comelec law division chief.

Rafanan noted that both the Senate and the House of Representatives tried to investigate alleged fraud, but they did not succeed.

Rafanan spoke after a Mass celebrated by “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila. The Mass was held for the success not only of the joint investigation but also of the 2013 elections.

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