Watchdog fears fraud amid tight polls

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Sr. Mary John Mananzan (center) leads other supporters of poll watchdog group Kontra Daya as they march towards the Comelec office in Manila, March 7. (Photo: Kontra Daya)

MANILA, March 7, 2016— In what could be the tightest electoral race in 12 years, a poll watchdog urged voters to carefully monitor the conduct of the elections amid concerns about possible cheating.

Convenors of Kontra Daya, composed of the clergy and the religious, information technology experts, lawyers, teachers, students, and activists, said signs point to fraud or polling inaccuracy.

Sister Mary John Mananzan, Kontra Daya co-convenor, said if surveys are to be believed, the May presidential and vice-presidential contest “will go down the wire.”

‘Heightened vigilance’

“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 Mananzan.

The nun, a former co-chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, made the statement during the poll watchdog group’s general assembly in Manila on Monday.

The group called on the public to exercise “heightened vigilance” in the electoral process amid the unresolved issues surrounding the vote counting machines (VCMs).

Rick Bahague, Jr., of the Computer Professionals Union (CPU) said if the automated polls cannot accurately record and count votes, the outcome, especially in a close fight, “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,” he added.

He cited as an example the results of the Feb. 13 mock polls in Kalibo, Aklan, which showed significant discrepancies between the VCM and manual count of votes in almost all positions.

Kontra Daya said it monitored a total of 10 miscounted votes between the VCM and manual votes counted.

Close race

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

The group also called on Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista to immediately resolve the issues that undermine the electoral process.

In a letter to Bautista, Kontra Daya particularly cited the absence of the vote verification feature of the VCMs, particularly the voter receipts bearing the choice of candidates of every voter.

The group added: “If the outstanding election issues are left unresolved, the people’s right to vote is not guaranteed, and the result of a supposed democratic exercise could be put into serious question.” (CBCP News)

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