MANILA, April 30, 2013— Alarmed over the lack of security features of the automated elections, a Catholic bishop has suggested a manual count of all votes cast for senator, congressman, governor and other local positions.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that conducting a manual count is the only way that the result of the May 13 polls can be validated “beyond the shadow of any doubt.”
“To restore the credibility of our electoral procedure with all the above limitations and shortcomings, we call for a parallel manual count to be done in all precincts,” Pabillo said.
Joined by around a dozen poll watchdog groups, the bishop challenged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to institute a manual count “if it has nothing to hide”.
“This manual count will check whether what have been transmitted is the same result as those found in the precincts,” Pabillo said.
Doing so, according to him, will prove to all the automated system using the Precinct Count Optical Machines (PCOS) and its present software are reliable.
“Let not the Comelec say that there is no time for this, or that logistics have not been prepared. The PCOS results should be validated by a parallel manual count in all precincts,” Pabillo said.
“The stakes are too great for Comelec not to do all in its power to prove the reliability and trustworthiness of the present automated system,” he added.
Pabillo chairs the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (Nassa) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
RMA is ‘enough’
The poll body, however, was quick to reject the bishop’s call that would require teachers and election inspectors at the precinct level to manually count all votes.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the random manual audit (RMA), the only legally sanctioned mechanism for validating PCOS count, is enough to determine the accuracy of the voting machines.
“We think what will be done in the Random Manual Audit is enough for that purpose. RMA is effective anyway. We don’t need the 100 percent parallel count. It will just cause confusion,” Jimenez said.
Pabillo said the credibility of the automated polls has suffered because the Comelec removed many of the safeguards that were initially set in place: digital signature, ultra violet scanner, voter verification and source code review.
“If the Comelec continues with the elections in this situation, it would violate the automated election law…,” he said.
The bishop also said they did not wish to taint the elections, but they wanted to help prove its ability to deliver credible elections by having the manual count.
“We have been doing that all these years and it will not take much time of counting. That would somehow give us assurance that the tally is right,” Pabillo said. (Roy Lagarde)