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Comelec Exec says supplier of ‘faulty’ SD cards shouldn’t be paid in full

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Wednesday that the supplier of the secure digital (SD) cards used in the 2019 midterm elections should not be paid in full.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said this during a chance interview at the National Board of Canvassers for the Senate and party-list race.

“Pero ang gusto kong i-announce, ito ha, this is my personal view, itong supplier ng SD cards ay hindi naman babayaran ng buo,” she said.

“Ipapasuri ko ‘yan, ‘yung proseso ng bidding at ‘yung pagdeliver nila ng cards kasi iyan po talaga ang nagging culprit,” she added.

Guanzon made the remark after the poll body revealed that 1,665 of the SD cards provided by the S1 Technologies and Silicon Valley Computer Group had encountered multiple problems during election day.

The Comelec reported on Tuesday that 1.9 percent of the 85,769 SD cards used in the 2019 midterm national and local elections were defective. The supposed faulty SD cards have been blamed for the errors in 961 vote-counting machines (VCM) during polls.

These figures are higher than the 120 SD cards and 801 VCMs replaced in the 2016 polls.

The S1 company bagged the contract to supply the SD cards for P22.6 million, but according to Guanzon, it would be a waste if they will pay for the damaged cards.

“Under COA (Commission on Audit) rules, even if they deliver and hindi namin nagamit iyan because it would have resulted to chaos. Hindi namin sila kailangang bayaran,” she said.

Guanzon said she will bring up the proposal to withhold the payment before the Comelec en banc, clarifying that the matter has yet to be decided amid ongoing investigation on the suppliers of SD cards, marking pens and VCMs.

She also said that the poll body is open to place its transparency server data logs under a third-party audit to clear the issues over the delay in transmitting of real-time election results, which Comelec earlier attributed to an application error in the transparency server.

Guanzon added that it would be better if the audit will be conducted by an independent party to disprove allegations on poll fraud.

“Yes, third-party audit, pati PPCRV of course, NAMFREL. They are going to have access; we will give them access. I am sure the other commissioners also agree to this suggestion of Commissioner Guia,” she said.

Guanzon also said that they cannot blame others for doubting the integrity of the poll results following the technical glitches that marred the elections.

“They have a right to say that kasi nga 7 to 8 hours iyong delay. Ang sinasabi lang namin you can verify it. Willing naman kami na may third party na audit diyan, ng logs,” she said.

“I can assure that personally na wala pong daya diyan o magic,” she added. (with details from Aiko Miguel)

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Comelec hopes to proclaim winning senators, party-list groups next week

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is hoping to complete the canvassing of votes on Saturday (May 18) for the immediate scheduling of the proclamation of winning senators and party-list groups in the 2019 midterm elections.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said in a press briefing that no final date of proclamation has been confirmed because the canvassing has yet to be finished.

“No invitations have been sent out yet. There might have been a verbal invitation of when the proclamation could happen at the earliest. It’s like a heads up,” he said. “There are still some matters to be settled.”

Jimenez also said that the poll body will proclaim winners of senatorial and party-list races simultaneously, saying the move is seen as more efficient.

“One of the directions that we are doing is one proclamation for both Senate and Party-list winners. So, it does take some time, magkasama. So hindi tayo pwedeng magmadali,” he said.

There have been calls for the suspension of the proclamation of winning national candidates over allegations of poll fraud and irregularities that cast doubts on the credibility of the midterm polls.

But Jimenez said on Wednesday that the proclamation of winning bets cannot be suspended based on unsupported allegations.

The Comelec, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), has so far canvassed 145 out of 167 certificates of canvass (COC), with 99.15 percent of election returns (ER) transmitted for canvassing.

This accounts to 85,044 out of the 85,769 ERs that the poll body should receive.

The latest partial and official results from the NBOC showed that reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar continues to lead the senatorial race followed by Senator Grace Poe.

Rounding up the top 15 are Bong Go, Pia Cayetano, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, Koko Pimentel, Nancy Binay, Bong Revilla, Bam Aquino, JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada.

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Opposition supporters question Comelec over alleged anomalies

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

Members of Tindig Pilipinas and the Silent Majority protesting the technical glitches that were encountered during the May 13, 2019 polls Courtesy : FB page of Now You Know

MANILA, Philippines – Supporters of the opposition group on Friday questioned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on alleged anomalies in the May 13 midterm elections.

Members of Tindig Pilipinas and the Silent Majority gathered in front of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City where the Comelec is canvassing votes for the senatorial and party-list elections.

The groups were protesting the technical glitches that were encountered during the polls, such as defective secure digital (SD) cards and vote-counting machines (VCM), as well as the seven-hour delay in transmitting data from Comelec’s transparency server.

Members of said cause-oriented groups, who were chanting “what happened to the midterm elections, Comelec?” repeatedly during their picket, were also demanding the poll body to explain the alleged irregularities that cast doubts on the credibility of the midterm polls.

They also sought to question the poll body for its alleged mishandling and inaction of supposed anomalies observed, including the designation of Nacionalista Party as the minority party, the disenfranchisement of voters, and the “blatant commission” of pre-campaign and campaign violations of some candidates such as electioneering and vote-buying.

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What’s holding PH from having a smooth automated election?

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2019

2019 midterm elections at Commonwealth Elementary School, Quezon City (Rodel Lumiares/PVI)

MANILA, Philippines – It took the Philippines 18 years before it finally applied the automated election system (AES) in 2010, the time when Benigno Aquino III was named the country’s 15th President.

The plan to fully automate the electoral process was raised in 1992 by then Commission on Election (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod during the term of then President Fidel Ramos.

Speaking to UNTV News, Monsod explained that the main purpose of automation was to expedite the election process and to make the job easier for the Commission.

“The vision is really to have the returns faster. It’s two – accuracy and speed. Those are the two objectives,” Monsod said on Thursday (May 16).

In 1996, the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was declared a success.

It was then that the computerized election system in the country was pilot-tested using the technology provided by a U.S. company American Information System, Inc.

In December 1997, Republic Act 8436 or “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Use an Automated Election System in the May 11, 1998 National or Local Elections and in Subsequent National and Local Electoral Exercises, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes” was signed.

However, it was applied only to specific areas like Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and not to the entire Philippines.

During the term of former President Joseph Estrada, poll automation did not push through.

In 2004, the administration of then president Gloria Arroyo awarded the P1.3B poll automation contract to Mega Pacific E-Solutions but the Supreme Court (SC) nullified the contract due to irregularities in the bidding process. A complaint against then Comelec Commissioner Benjamin Abalos Sr., other commissioners and executives of the Mega Pacific E-Solutions was filed in relation to the contract but the case did not prosper due to lack of probable cause.

It was in 2008 that Smartmatic-Sahi Joint Ventures entered a contract with Comelec as the provider of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Technology while the Active Business Solutions Inc. and Avante International provided the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) Technology.

The said technologies were applied in the ARMM elections that time but several glitches manifested.

In 2009, the contract for the 2010 presidential elections was awarded to Smartmatic-TIM, the same technology provided tapped in the succeeding polls in 2013, 2016, and this year 2019.

This preference to Smartmatic raised doubts and questions to the credibility of the election process.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, for one, suggests that Smartmatic must be replaced by a different technology provider.

 “Matagal na noong January pa (ay) sinasabi ko na yan. Ang problema noong nag-privilege speech ako (ay) nakapag-award na ang COMELEC. Remember, kasi napakadaming problema,” Sotto said.

(I have been reminding them, ever since January. But then when I gave my privilege speech, Comelec already awarded [the contract]. Remember, there were many problems before.)

The recently concluded 2019 midterm polls was not spared from glitches and problems as many SD cards appeared defective and more vote counting machines malfunctioned as compared to the election in 2016.

But the poll body argues that it is only Smartmatic that passes their bidding requirements aside from the company’s experiences in the previous elections.

Comelec added that this year, not all election materials were provided by a single supplier which, according to the agency, justifies why there were defective supplies.

“In 2016, bundled ang aming bidding…Ngayon iba ang supplier ng makina, iba ang supplier ng SD cards, iba rin ang supplier ng papel at marking pens so doon ang nakita naming problema hindi masyadong nagma-match,” argued Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas.

What the poll body is looking at this time is whether or not to still reuse the VCMs despite their service in the two consecutive elections. – (with details from Rey Pelayo) Marje Pelayo

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