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‘Automated mystery’ case: Roxas files protest

By Norman Bordadora, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 07/10/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Computing & Information Technology

MANILA, Philippines ? Claiming he was a victim of automated ?mysteries? and widespread vote fraud, defeated Liberal Party candidate Manuel Roxas II Friday asked the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to overturn the victory of his rival Jejomar Binay and declare him the duly-elected vice president.

The running mate of President Aquino challenged the election of the former Makati City mayor in a 102-page protest his lawyers filed at the Supreme Court, which also sits as the tribunal that decides protests in presidential and vice presidential races.


Roxas asked for a manual recount of three million votes for vice president in the May 10 elections that were either not counted or were considered stray or null by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The elections marked the first nationwide automated polls in the Philippines.

?(Protestant) respectfully prays that the honorable tribunal ? annul and set aside the proclamation of Jejomar C. Binay ... and proclaim Manual A. Roxas as the duly elected Vice President,? Roxas said in his protest.

Binay confident

The Binay camp is confident the tribunal will uphold his victory.

?It is correct that the proper remedy is an election protest. But if their protest is due to the existence of the null votes? Mar Roxas stands to lose a second time,? said lawyer JV Bautista, Binay?s spokesperson during the canvassing process.

Comelec officials sounded cool to the Roxas protest and said that the machine count should prevail.

Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Gregorio Larrazabal said manual recount had no place and bearing in the age of automated elections.

Binay beat Roxas by 727,084 votes.

?Anomalously high?

Roxas? election lawyer Joey Tenefrancia said the result of the race could have been different had the more than three million null votes been counted.

Votes could be invalidated for reasons including incorrect shading on ballot cards that could not be read by the computer machine?called precinct count optical scanners (PCOS)?or by picking more than one candidate for vice president.

?The anomalously high incidence of null/misread votes is ... crucial for the vice presidential contest, especially in light of the narrow margin between the protestant and protestee,? Roxas said.

Roxas also claimed that Comelec and machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM removed crucial safeguards in the automation, ??thus causing the fraud, anomalies, irregularities, statistical improbabilities and system-wide electoral fraud in the vice presidential contest.?

?As it is, the proclamation of (Binay) was based on figures plagued by mysteries that wrapped and anomalies that engulfed the unverified dictates of the PCOS machine,? Roxas said.

Protest is nationwide

Tenefrancia told reporters: ?Our protest is nationwide because the missing three million null votes came from precincts nationwide. If we know what really happened to these null votes, the winner could change.?

The protest said it was anomalous that three million voters ?were disenfranchised.? It added that the number of null votes was high in provinces that Roxas won and low in areas that Binay took.

The protest said there were also several PCOS machines that transmitted the results of the final testing of the machines instead of the actual results in the elections. ?This is a fact officially admitted and documented by the Commission on Elections,? it said.

It said that ?in almost all parts of the country?, the boards of canvassers transmitted ?incomplete? results in the vice presidential contest.

This was purportedly the result of the inspector boards being authorized to lower the canvassing threshold or the number of votes that needed to be canvassed before they were transmitted.

Safeguard mechanisms

?With the huge volume of contested votes for the vice president, it is of transcendental imperative to determine the true will of the electorate as to their vice president,? the protest said.

It said that while the Supreme Court upheld the conduct of the automated election system, the crucial safeguards were not implemented.

?The outcome was ... anomalous, as the safeguard mechanisms were compromised.?

The protest cited the absence of a review of the source code, systematic problems on how the PCOS reads ballots, lack of transmission protocols and even an absence of a proper random manual audit.

?Determining the will of the electorate in the vice presidential contest therefore renders imperative a forensic analysis of the hardware and software components of the AES [automated election system], including the source code, PCOS machine, compact flash cards and transmission data and protocols as well as a proper manual audit as required by law.?

Roxas? lawyers have paid a P100,000 filing fee and made a P200,000 deposit to start the protest proceedings. The total cost of the protest could easily run up to the tens of millions, poll experts say.

Forensic analysis

Tenefrancia said that before the automated elections, teachers on the boards of election inspectors determined what could be considered null votes. In the last elections, he said it was the counting machines that excluded the supposed null votes from the tally.

?Part of the process is to look at the ballots if there were really no votes or if the machines just didn?t read the votes for Senator Mar,? Tenefrancia said.

The lawyer said: ?Under the rules of the presidential electoral tribunal there?s a process that the ballots should go through the PCOS. But for us, before it goes through the PCOS machine, we are also asking for forensic analysis.?

Without the forensic analysis of the system, any recount through the PCOS would remain suspect.

A spokesperson for President Aquino said the President respected Roxas? right to file a protest, but had no further comment.

Binay?s lawyer Bautista said that Roxas? prayer for a manual recount would be against the rules of the automated election.

?What they can do is to again run the ballots through the computer?. If they are asking for a manual recount, that cannot be,? Bautista said.

He said Roxas? protest ?shows that the old adage that there are no losers in national elections, only those who were cheated, is still very much with us.? With a report from Reuters



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