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article imagePhilippines: Independent audit of automated polls urged

By Alexander Martin Remollino     May 14, 2010 in Politics
Quezon City - A group advocating political and socio-economic reforms has called for an independent audit of the May 10 elections, the first automated elections in the Philippines' history.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had declared the May 10 elections a success, even as it acknowledged the numerous problems that had arisen during election day.
"I'm smiling again," Comelec chairman Jose Melo told reporters in a press conference on Monday. "It was successful. I will add the 'very' part later."
But the Pagbabago! People's Movement for Change has disputed Melo's assessment, citing the Comelec's own admission that there are discrepancies between the electronic election returns and their printed versions. The discrepancies affect some 150,000 voters from 196 precincts in different provinces.
Pagbabago noted that the discrepancies in election data are just the latest among the many problems that election watchdogs and foreign observers had monitored during the elections.
The election monitoring group Kontra Daya, and the People's International Observers Mission (PIOM) organized by local and foreign non-government and people's organizations, had observed several irregularities in Monday's polls -- among these the malfunctioning of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, unusually long queues in polling places, massive disenfranchisement of voters including first-timers, lack of secrecy in the voting process, confusion at the precincts that discouraged many voters, and harassment and violence.
"By no means can the automated elections be declared an unqualified success without any proof to show that the electronic count tallies with the actual votes cast," said Pagbabago spokesman Roland Tolentino, who is also the dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication, in a statement yesterday. "The mounting reports of discrepancies in several areas put the claim under a cloud of doubt."
Tolentino added that an independent investigation of the May 10 elections would assure voters "that their votes were counted and counted properly."
He also said an independent probe is needed in examining the effects of what he described as "the negligence and the utter lack of preparation" of the Comelec and its partner, the private corporation Smartmatic-TIM, which supplied electronic election equipment.
"While we may concede that it is nearly impossible to have a flawless elections, we could not ignore the glaring errors and omissions (committed) by Comelec and Smartmatic during their preparations," Tolentino said. "For instance, what happened to the P30-million worth of ultra-violet lamps that were supposed to verify the authenticity of the ballots? How did wrongly programmed compact flash cards end up being distributed to polling centers? Why did several PCOS machines still malfunction despite the pre-poll testing procedures?"
Tolentino said the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM should be made accountable for the problems that arose during Monday's elections.
More about Pagbabago, Commission elections, Philippines
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