Posts Tagged ‘2010 elections’

Check out Kontra Daya’s initial study of some 15 partylist groups with links to the Arroyo administration. There are some more partylists being studied for possible violations of the partylist law.

Most notorious of these groups are Ang Galing Pinoy, 1-Utak, PACYAW, Ang Kasangga, ALE, and BIDA.

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Less than 100 days to go: Mock polls still not satisfactory:
Renato Reyes, Jr.

The preparation of the election paraphernalia proceeded smoothly, except for the difficulty of having many interested observers who could not have immediate access to the polling center. The number of observers was limited and most of them could only watch through the window. They could not see the actual operation of the machines.

There were 50 pre-selected voters, most of whom were teachers who will act as Board of Election Inspectors on Election Day. Initial reports say that 40 of the voters were teachers. Thus, the idea of testing the system using a wide range of sectors with different levels of understanding was not considered. The teachers were reportedly already had a dry-run a day before the actual mock elections.

Since they were pre-selected voters, they did not go through the possibly time-consuming process of looking up one’s name in the voters list. Interviews done after the voting indicated that some of the teachers were not even voters of the said precinct and were just asked to fill-in slots for the mock elections.

Ten voters at a time were allowed inside the polling precinct. They were given mock ballots that included bands and heroes instead of the names of real candidates.

The average time it took one voter to finish the process was about 5-6 minutes. It may appear fast but we have to remember that the voters were mainly teachers who had been given prior briefings. Also, based on our interviews with the voters, they were not really spending time looking for the names of particular candidates. One Comelec officer in charge of the mock polls admitted that looking up the name of a real candidate/partylist from several hundred names may take more time than just randomly voting for mock candidates. Total time for the 50 voters to finish the process was an hour and 50 minutes, but there were some understandable delays (absence of ground rules for media coverage, physical arrangement of the classroom etc).

All things considered, it would really take more time for 50 people to vote, if we are to factor in looking up one’s name in the voters list and actually looking up the names of real candidates from the 25-inch long ballot. The average time for a voter may exceed the 6 minutes we saw today. A real time and motion study must be conducted by the Comelec.

At this rate, there may not be enough time to allow 1,000 voters per precinct to vote. If 50 voters will need 110 mintues to vote, that would mean 36 hours for 1,000 people to vote. If we speed up the rate, say 1 hour for 50 voters, that would still result to 20 hours for 1,000 people to vote. If we go by a 75% voter turnout, that would still require some 15 hours for 750 people to vote.

Interviews also indicated that some pens ran out of ink. Other voters complained of the font size. One voter was about to use her ballpen to fill up the ballot until a Comelec official saw her and gave her the official felt-tipped pen.

Rejection of ballot

The New Era PCOS machine rejected some five mock ballots. After several failed attempts to read the ballots, they were placed in an envelope and set aside. The voters however were not informed of the reason for the rejection of ballots. They were not given a second ballot nor were they allowed to correct whatever defect that may have been present in the rejected ballot.

At the end of the voting, a Smartmatic personnel explained that the reason why the ballots were rejected was that they were not sufficiently marked, or did not meet the marking threshold (some only showed dots instead of shades). He explained that the ballots contained “ambiguous marks”. Kontra Daya was able to see only one of these ballots that allegedly had “ambiguous marks”. The Comelec refused to let us see the rest of the rejected ballots. We also did not see the screen on the machine which said that the ballots contained “ambiguous marks”.

The Smartmatic technician explained that by fully shading the ballot, the machine will accept the previously rejected ballot. This was demonstrated to the audience in the room.

Kontra Daya raised the issue that the BEI did not inform the voters of the reason/s why their ballots were rejected and did not advise the voters what they can do or if they can vote again. There appears to be no guidelines covering this scenario.  We fear this is a major issue that Comelec should address now considering that this is not the first test where ballots were rejected. Similar incidents happened in Aguho Elementary School in Pateros last January 29. It is time that guidelines be set to cover rejected ballots and the voter’s options.

Transmission

There were no major transmission problems except for the difficulty in transmitting to the KBP server which took four attempts.

Kontra Daya received reports from other areas that there were not enough voters for the mock polls. Also, there were machine glitches in Maharlika Elementary School in Taguig including the jamming of paper and the opening of the PCOS machine.

There should be another round of mock elections to further test the system and to test the guidelines covering rejected ballots. The next round should involve a broader cross-section of society (not just teachers) and must simulate closer-to-actual conditions including the new ballot format, the actual voters list and even an actual manual audit of votes.

We also cannot underscore enough the importance of voters education which the Comelec should be conducting to inform voters of the new system.

One of our greatest fears is that if these issues are not addressed in time for May 10, then we are headed for a trouble-filled election day with many disenfranchised voters.

The other day, the Comelec announced that it was concerned about the reported entry of some 5,000 cell phone jamming devices into the country. It was not revealed who ordered the jamming devices. The Bureau of Customs has announced that it was sending its intelligence agents to investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, we continue to get assurances from both the Comelec and Smartmatic that contingencies are in place to thwart attempts to disrupt the transmission of election results. The election results from precinct to municipal canvassers and to the central servers will be done via cell sites from the different telcos. The jamming device can hamper the transmission of election results, probably long enough for fraud to happen.

Not many people can afford such a huge shipment of cellphone jamming devices. At $300 per piece, 5,000 pieces would amount to $1.5 million or some P69 million. At $200 a unit, that would be some $1 million for 5,000 units. That’s a huge amount of money.

I read somewhere that the cheapest hand-held jamming device can be as low as $79. Still, you’ll need some P18 million to buy 5,000 units.

Who would have the means and motive to make such a procurement? Probably one who has a lot of money and would want to undertake massive cheating or push the failure of elections.

The Bureau of Customs and the National Telecommunications Commission should probe all possible buyers, even those coming from government. The magnitude of the procurement seem to indicate that the buyer may not simply be a private entity. The BoC and NTC must probe even government agencies who may have an interest in acquiring these devices, including the police and military.

A professional handheld jamming device can block cellphone signals as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth transmission for up to 20 meters, or just about the area of a polling precinct.

The Bureau of Customs said it would be difficult to detect these hand-held devices because they’re small. True, if you’re talking of just one unit. But it’s probably hard to miss 5,00o units.

With the threat of cellphone jammers now entering the picture, the Comelec and Smartmatic may not have enough transmission options on election day.

Comelec Director James Jimenez admitted in a voters education forum at the House of Representatives yesterday that Smartmatic has only procured 5,000 Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite devices. These will be used as an option in case transmission of election results through cell sites fails . As in one Comelec field test, failure to transmit results through GSM will mean that a satellite device will be used.

The 5,000 BGAN devices may not be enough to thwart a massive attack on the system by cellphone jammers. It is also not clear at this point how Comelec and Smartmatic will address this serious security threat which aims to hamper the transmission of election results.

Comelec and Smartmatic will not only deal with inherently weak cell signals, but also with parties that are out to disable the transmission of election results via jamming. The dangers of fraud now loom large in the horizon.

Jimenez said at the forum that Smartmatic is trying to procure additional satellite devices in time for election day. There are some 80,000 polling precincts that will use the new automated election system.

Here’s a shopping guide for cell phone jamming devices.

The field test in Aguho Elementary School included the scanning of ballots and the transmission of elections results. We observed the following problems from the Aguho field test:

1. The PCOS machine failed to read 4 out of 10 valid ballots, resulting in a 40% failure rate. No satisfactory and definitive explanation was available from both the Comelec and Smartmatic personnel present at the test. The ballots were NOT crumpled and appeared to be in good condition. The Comelec official present could not give an answer as to what will happen to a voter if his/her valid ballot is not read by the machine. Under the new rules, a voter cannot be given a new ballot since the number of ballots per precinct corresponds to the exact number of voters.

2. There were difficulties in internet connection both from the precinct and the municipal board of canvassers. The MBOC relied on GPRS and had to change SIM cards when it could not get a stable connection. Why did it not use the existing stable internet connection at the municipal hall? The precinct meanwhile had to try three different SIM cards and 2 modems in several attempts to transmit results. Only the transmission to the MBOC, proved successful. This was after almost two hours of trying. It appears that the Smartmatic survey on signal strength was either not thorough or was not considered by the technicians who were setting up the system. The 2-hour delay could have been avoided had they known which telco, if any, had the best signal at that area.

3. Failing to transmit data after using the 3 SIM cards, shift to satellite technology was authorized. The Smartmatic technician seemed ill-prepared to set up the Broadband Global Area Network satellite device. The transition from GPRS to BGAN din not run smoothly as the technician, not prepared to set up the BGAN, had to get instructions over the phone. The worst scene was when he was trying to get a random signal around the school grounds by holding the device above his head (like you would when you’re trying to get a cellphone signal).

4. It took three hours to transmit data using different systems. The delay may be attributed to the lack of preparedness of the Comelec-Smartmatic officials in dealing with machine failure. Comelec though considers it a success since data was still transferred. They say the three hour delay was still within the 36-hour period set by Comelec for the transmission of results.

5. The BGAN device was the second to the last option. The Smartmatic technician said the satellite device will only be deployed in areas where signal is weak, such as far flung provinces. He wasn’t expecting using it in Metro Manila. He was not sure if on election day, such a device will also be deployed in highly urbanized areas where cell site signals are supposedly strongest. The failed transmission was in Pateros, a part of Metro Manila, where there was supposed to be stable signal from cell sties.

On February 6, there will be mock elections in several cities and provinces. We should all go and observe and see if things have improved or if we’re headed for a really disastrous May 10 elections.

At least nine partylist groups with linked to the administration have been accredited by the Commission on Elections according to militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. The group said that this was only an initial listing and could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Bayan based its findings on a list drafted by poll watchdog Kontra Daya in 2007 and on a 2006 memorandum from the Office on External Affairs in Malacanang which identified administration partylist groups to be supported.

According to Bayan, those partylist groups previously identified with the administration who have been recently accredited for 2010 include :

1. Agbiag Timpuyo Ilokano (AGBIAG) – previously cited in OEA memo

2. Ahon Pinoy (AHON) – previous nominee was Dante “Klink” Ang II, son of Dante Ang who chaired the Commission on Filipinos Overseas

3. Akbay Pinoy OFW-National (APOI) – previous nominees included former Arroyo DILG officials

4. Aangat Ating Kabuhayan Filipinas (ANAK)- previous nominee included an official of PNP-NCRPO

5. Babae para sa Kaunalaran (Babae Ka) – previously cited in OEA memo

6.. Bigkis Pinoy Movement (BIGKIS) – identified with PAGCOR chair Efraim Genuino

7. Byaheng Pinoy Labor Association (Byaheng Pinoy) – previous nominee was brother of former COMELEC chair Abalos

8. Kalahi Sectoral Party (KALAHI)- previously cited in OEA memo

9. League of Youth for Peace Advancement (LYPAD)- previously cited in OEA memo

“Four of the partylist groups: Agbiag, Babae Ka, Kalahi and LYPAD, were previously cited in a memo from the Office of External Affairs in October 16, 2006. They were then considered the four main partylist groups to be supported by the administration in the 2007 polls and were supposed to receive Palace funding according to the OEA memo. Receiving official funding from the government should already be a basis for disqualification,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“These groups have been accredited again despite previous questions on their qualifications as legitimate partylist groups. In contrast, COMELEC has made it difficult for the legitimate partylist groups like Ang Ladlad, Migrante, ACT and Courage to get immediate accreditation,” Reyes added.

Ang Ladlad has been included in the list of partylist groups only after a Supreme Court restraining order on the Comelec. Meanwhile, ACT was only recently accredited after it was initially disqualified.

The militant suspects said that Arroyo may be attempting to use the party-list system to form a power-block in Congress which will include her, other Arroyo family members and former Arroyo cabinet officials. “This power block may be used to push for charter change so that Arroyo can be back on top as Prime Minister,” Reyes said.

Bayan also cited the Bigkis Pinoy Movement (BIGKIS) identified with PAGCOR chair Efraim Genuino as another questionable partylist group accredited by the Comelec. The group’s previous nominees include PAGCOR officials Edward King and Ramon Agoncillo, consultants Mario Cornista (2001), Ismael Tabo (2004), and Tomas Toledo (2007)and Sheryl Genuino-See, the daughter of PAGCOR chair Genuino. The group has failed to get elected to Congress the past three elections.

“It is thus anomalous that this partylist group that has failed to get elected the last three polls is allowed to run again. Isn’t it the rule that if a partylist group fails to participate or obtain at least 2% of the votes cast under the party-list system in the 2 preceding elections, they are to be delisted? Why is it that that rule doesn’t seem to apply to a partylist group that is identified with PAGCOR and Genuino?” Reyes said.

“Is the COMELEC giving special treatment and consideration for partylist groups identified with the administration?” the Bayan leader added.

Kontra-Daya in its 2007 list also cited groups Aangat Tayo (AT), BANAT, Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) and Kasangga sa Kaunlaran (Ang Kasangga) as partylist groups identified with the adminstration. These groups have since been given seats in Congress after a Supreme Court ruling on the appropriation of seats under the partylist system.

Ang Kasangga’s congressional representative is a sister of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. BANTAY’s representative is notorious human rights violator Gen. Jovito Palparan who claims to represent security guards and baranggay tanods. ANAD meanwhile is a group dedicated to fighting communism. Both ANAD and BANTAY are believed to be supported by the military. BANAT meanwhile has recently endorsed administration presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro.

“The partylist system is supposed to be for the marginalized or underrepresented. However, over the past years, through the efforts of Arroyo and the COMELEC, the partylist system has been undermined and corrupted to favor the incumbent in Malacanang,” Reyes said.

“We have been getting persistent reports that another Arroyo family member is poised to become a partylist nominee. It is really sad that the COMELEC has turned a blind eye to these abuses of the partylist system,” Reyes added.

Bayan said that various poll watchdogs will closely monitor the partylist groups and will seek the disclosure of nominees by the Comelec. It said that it has been the administration’s strategy to field many partylsit groups to draw votes away from legitimate partylist groups, many of which are anti-Arroyo.

“The disclosure of partylist nominees is a crucial aspect of transparency in the elections. We can better analyze and pinpoint the pseudo –partylist groups if the Comelec makes public the nominees. ###

News Release

November 28, 2009

Instead of running again, Arroyo should step down over killings

Saying that the ultimate responsibility for the climate of impunity rests with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today called on the president to step down and desist from pursuing public office in the 2010 elections.

“Being ultimately responsible for the hundreds of unsolved cases of extrajudicial killings during her watch, Mrs. Arroyo has no business seeking any public office in 2010. She has made herself morally unqualified to hold any public office or elective position. She should step down, the sooner the better,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Her attempt to run again insults the entire Filipino people and belittles the long standing problem of impunity in the country. It is deplorable that she has given the congressional seat in Pampanga more thought than the plight of the many human rights victims,” he added.

Bayan said that talks were rife on the possibility that Arroyo will seek the congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga, a position currently held by her son Mikey.

“Perhaps she is just waiting for the Ampatuan massacre to die down. She’s probably hoping that this blows over so that come December 1, she can file her certificate of candidacy,” Reyes said.

“The fact that she wants to stay in power despite everything that has happened, that is something that also incomprehensible. It is like she has been intoxicated by power and that she can no longer give it up. Or perhaps she is afraid of losing immunity or political leverage once she is no longer president,” the Bayan leader added.

Various human rights groups, lawyers, journalists, religious formations and women’s groups are preparing protest actions on November 30 to call for an end to impunity and to demand justice for all the victims of human rights abuses under the Arroyo regime.

“Many have noticed that it appears presidential candidate Gibo Teodoro, though no longer in office, seems to be doing more than Mrs. Arroyo. Could it be because the president is too busy in pushing her congressional bid in Pampanga?” he asked.

“We’ve counted more than 1,000 victims of extrajudicial killings, nearly 200 cases of enforced disappearances, some 200 cases of torture and scores of other abuses. But we count very few conviction, if any. If that is not impunity, then what is? The trail of blood, leads right up the doorstep of Malacanang,” Reyes said. ###