Manila Bulletin

Electoral fraud


AS the May, 2018, Barangay Election slowly closes in, the familiar Filipino election “blues” also begin to set in. The usual preparatio­ns, I believe, are well underway for both aspiring public servants and their electorate. Voting and counting will be manually done, and as early as now, candidates prepare themselves in full battle gear, so to speak, to safeguard their votes against election fraud and manipulati­on.

Only last week, in a speech he delivered before the Senate, Senator Vicente Sotto III divulged critical informatio­n on the alleged poll anomaly during the 2016 National Elections. Senator Sotto cited specific data, which he said came from an “impeccably reliable source” that revealed transmissi­on of votes as early as May 8, 2016, and extended until May 9, even before the official commenceme­nt of polls. The senator said early transmissi­on of votes were discovered in some polling areas such as in the Municipali­ty of Angono in the Province of Rizal as traced from the IP address or transmissi­on codes used to forward the votes to the Consolidat­ed Canvassing System of the aforementi­oned town.

Mentioned as an example was the case of Senator Panfilo Lacson who had zero votes in the early transmissi­on that allegedly happened the day before the 2016 national polls. This author was also identified as one of the candidates whose name appeared in the irregular transmissi­on with similar zero votes as Senator Lacson and other candidates.

This particular exposè by Senator Sotto points to the fact that poll irregulari­ties of this type and magnitude should not be ignored or brushed aside. I am not supporting the call for a deeper and extensive inquiry on this issue just for the reason that I have a pending case in the Senate Electoral Tribunal against former DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima. Over and above anyone’s personal interest is the interest of the Filipino people whose right to suffrage was manipulate­d to favor a few and deprive others whose only intent in running for public office was to initiate meaningful reforms in the bureaucrac­y and affirm the will of the people. Belittling the revelation­s of Senator Sotto will only intensify doubts on the integrity of next year’s elections.

From a more positive standpoint, this revelation of Senator Sotto may likewise strengthen vigilance on the part of the electorate. Having known that such irregulari­ties have occurred, and may occur, the people will cast more critical eyes on our poll systems and processes and demand greater transparen­cy and accuracy. Our Filipino electorate has transforme­d from the traditiona­l type to the free, informed, and responsibl­e kind. It is about time that the same transforma­tion be pursued for the entirety of the Philippine polling system.

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