An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Unperturbed by allegations of massive glitches, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Thursday said he would file charges against his critics, insisting that Monday’s automated balloting was “one of the best elections” in the country’s history.
“Those people who keep on blabbering but know nothing, they are the ones I’m going to charge. All of them,” Brillantes said in a press briefing.
Asked whom he would take to court, he replied, “After the elections, after the proclamations.”
Former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman, an information technology expert and one of the outspoken Comelec critics, said Brillantes should just step aside.
“I thought critics were allowed in a democracy. He doesn’t want to be criticized, then he should move to another country,” Lagman said. “Or, much simpler, maybe he should make good on his threat of resigning his post.”
Brillantes admitted that the Comelec had problems. “If there are no glitches and deficiencies, then the elections here are like heaven,” he said.
“It’s not perfect. There are deficiencies. There are defects and there are some irregularities … but compared to the past elections before 2013, this should be one of the best elections that we ever had,” he added.
The Comelec chief said Smartmatic also had its faults. “They are not saints. Of course, they will make mistakes. Even us, we also had a lot of errors. Even you, the media, had more errors. Why are you looking for errors? Why don’t you look for those that turned out right?”
Brillantes said the quick count of partial unofficial election returns yielded by the transparency server, which the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the media were using, was not the same as the official canvassing of votes under a “ladderized,” or tiered, system by the national board of canvassers (NBOC).
“It’s only natural that [the official canvassing] has to be slower because it goes through stages,” he told reporters at the Philippine International Convention Center, where the official canvassing was being held.
Brillantes clarified that the signal problem only affected the direct transmission to the transparency server.
“But the signal problem will not affect the NBOC’s canvassing because we have contingency measures there,” he said. “If there can’t be a transmission, we will bring the CF (compact flash) cards to the NBOC.” The CF cards, or memory cards, contain data on votes cast.
“The official [canvassing] is different from the [results from the] transparency server. The transparency server might still be missing the 30 percent of the vote, but with the NBOC, the gap is not as big,” he said without elaborating.
Asked about the possibility of a switching of CF cards, Brillantes said: “Those with dirty minds will think that way. But the watchers are all there. What CF-card switching? Here we go again. We go back to the outsiders full of doubts and speculations.”
The Comelec chief noted the presence of watchdogs, including the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, in the canvassing places.
Brillantes said the Comelec would hold the technical provider, Smartmatic International, accountable for any error. “We have a contract with them, but so far I have not seen any errors,” he said.
In an interview on Wednesday night, Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores said the canvassing was on schedule.
He stressed that the slowdown in the releasing of results from the transparency server was caused by a number of factors, including weak signals in the provinces and the fact that some precincts stopped or failed to transmit to the server after transmitting the returns to the municipal board of canvassers.
Flores said the Comelec and Smartmatic were not even legally bound to have the transparency server yield 100 percent of the vote, since the only official results would emanate from the ladderized system of canvassing.
“The official basis of canvassing and proclamations is what comes up the ladderized transmission from the municipality, then province, then finally the NBOC,” he said.
Flores said the bottleneck at the municipal and the provincial levels of the official canvassing was caused by a variety of reasons, including the alleged refusal of the boards of election inspectors in some areas to lower the threshold of the percentage of votes for local positions, which the Comelec has allowed.
“We’re talking 7,800 PCOS right, then we’re talking 1,630 municipalities [and cities], and we’re talking 81 provinces, so there is a natural bottleneck. [For example] this municipality would have to wait for 2,000 PCOS before they can transmit to the provincial [board of canvassers],” Flores said.
A weak signal is also another factor, although the Comelec has employed contingencies, including the use of satellite antennas for the transmission to the NBOC, he said.
“You have a precinct which is 12 hours away, which has no coverage. They have to wait for a car to arrive. So all these things happen. Even though you can see 1,800 precincts, this municipal board of canvassers still needs to wait until they can proclaim their mayor and vice mayor,” he said.
Flores insisted that he had observed “no major technical problems” with the hardware, including the CF cards.
“This is the way canvassing is by law. There could be hardware problems, but you don’t know if it’s impacting … it depends on every municipality. But it’s not about hardware or anything like that. It’s about the system,” he said.