Amid close presidential race: Watchdog warns of political crisis over automated polls

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KD

News Release

March 7, 2016

 

Poll watchdog Kontra Daya today warned of serious political consequences if problems with the automated election system are not resolved amid a very tight electoral contest. The group held its general assembly in Intramuros before marching to the Comelec office to deliver its letter to the chair Andy Bautista.

“If surveys are to be believed, the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential contest will go down the wire. It appears to be a very tight race, the closest we’ve had possibly in the last 12 years. Every vote matters. Yet we are confronted with an unreliable, foreign-controlled election system that threatens to undermine the results of the upcoming elections,” said Kontra Daya co-convenor Sr. Mary John Mananzan OSB.

The group called on the public to exercise heightened vigilance with regard to the conduct of the automated polls. The two front runners for President, Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay are statistically tied in first place according to the most recent Pulse Asia survey. The front runners for Vice President, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.are also tied for first place.

“If the automated polls cannot accurately record and count our votes, then the outcome, especially in a race as tight as this one, would be seriously in doubt. It is a political crisis waiting to explode.  Candidates as well as the electorate will have every reason to question the results,” said Rick Bahague Jr. Of the Computer Professionals Union (CPU).

“Up to now, we have no way of knowing whether the vote counting machines (VCMs) can accurately read and record votes. Comelec hasrejected calls for the verification of votes via the the machine screen and through a printed confirmation receipt. This is a most basic demand for transparency yet Comelec is rejecting it,”  Bahague said.

Kontra Daya also raised concerns over how the VCMs inaccurately counted the votes cast during the mock elections.  According to the group, this was manifested in the mock polls in Aklan where there were significant discrepancies between the VCM count and the manual count of the ballots, in almost all positions.

“Such discrepancies, in a very close race, can very well spell the difference between victory and defeat. The automated polls may install someone who the people did not vote for,” Bahague added.

In its letter to Comelec, the watchdog group also said that the public has no way of determining if the correct program is installed in the VCMs.  “The VCMs printed hash code (included in the initialization report) cannot be compared with published hash of the source code, since only the hash of the archive or zipped source code, and various system config files are available online. Furthermore, since the rebuild of the new source code on Feb 05, 2016 the posted hashes were not updated on the public website,” the group said.

Kontra Daya said its monitoring work on the elections has begun even before the actual May 9 polls. The group will be mobilizing volunteers and report on the conduct of the elections using social and mainstream media. ###

 

Here is a copy of the letter to Comelec:

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