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An inquiry could help our election system

The claim of three whistle blowers that they were involved in changing election results in Quezon province cannot affect the national election results – the proclamation of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President-elect Leni Robredo, and the 12 elected senators led by Sen. Franklin Drilon. Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, vice chairman of the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), said he had seen the documents brought by the three in support of their allegations of cheating and they apparently were not enough to stop the proclamation last Monday.

The three – a supervisor and two encoders – told some senators that they were ordered by a high-ranking government official to pad the votes for Liberal Party candidates, particularly for Mar Roxas, Robredo, and Drilon. The padding, they said, was done on cards containing votes on the municipal level which were then transmitted to Smartmatic, then to the Comelec’s Transparency Server. This tally by the Transparency Server was the quick count which the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) released to media.

This quick count, it may be remembered, was the same system that was unduly penetrated by a Smartmatic employe just to correct the spelling of two candidates’ names. The official count that went to Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, was apparently unaffected; thus, the complaint was ignored by the NBOC.

But the irregularities in the quick count can be investigated, perhaps by the Senate in aid of legislation, as suggested by Sen. Cynthia Villar. Or by the Comelec, as others have suggested. That they happened at all – even if it was only in the unofficial quick count – must be looked into.

Senator Villar said she would support a total review of the automated election process. She said she would push for a hybrid system – a manual counting of votes in the voting center combined with the electronic transmission of the results to the town or city center, on to the provincial center, to the national canvassing center. This way, there would be a basis for a complaint, a paper trail.

The elections are over and the winners have been proclaimed. But Congress can still look into the allegations of cheating and other irregularities, no longer in hopes of affecting the election results, but to initiate action that could lead to penalizing any violation. More important, a congressional inquiry could lead to legislation that will improve and strengthen the country’s election system.