Elec­tion in Venezuela rel­e­vant to Phl op­po­si­tion

This most re­cent Venezue­lan elec­tion ex­pe­ri­ence should teach a les­son or two to the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion lead­ers in our own coun­try.

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - By MARICHU A. VIL­LANUEVA

Op­po­si­tion can­di­dates in the Philip­pines should take heart in the re­cent land­slide op­po­si­tion vic­tory in Venezuela. Af­ter 16 years of “Chav­ismo,” the party led by for­mer pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez suf­fered a ma­jor set­back at the polls just a couple of weeks ago.

The re­sults of the De­cem­ber 6 elec­tions in Venezuela for mem­bers of the new par­lia­ment showed the op­po­si­tion won at least 99 seats, more than dou­ble the rul­ing so­cial­ist party’s 46. This was re­port­edly the first time in one-and-a-half decades that Chavez supporters lost a ma­jor­ity hold in the 167-seat uni­cam­eral na­tional as­sem­bly.

But how is op­po­si­tion vic­tory in far-away Venezuela rel­e­vant to the Philip­pines, es­pe­cially for the op­po­si­tion? It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that like Venezuela, the Philip­pines is us­ing a fully au­to­mated elec­tion sys­tem. In fact, both coun­tries are us­ing equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy sup­plied by Lon­don-based Smart­matic.

For years, the po­lit­i­cal mills in oil-pro­duc­ing Venezuela were rife with ru­mors that Chavez was al­legedly be­hind, or owns a sub­stan­tial stake in Smart­matic. The com­pany also re­port­edly counts among its direc­tors wealthy Venezue­lan busi­ness­men. Though un­sub­stan­ti­ated, Chavez’s ru­mored ties with the elec­tion equip­ment ven­dor has al­ways been blamed by op­po­si­tion­ists for Chav­ismo’s win­ning streak in par­lia­ment for the past 14 elec­tions.

This per­cep­tion – un­founded or not – has ob­vi­ously been com­pletely changed. The re­cent land­slide op­po­si­tion vic­tory in Venezuela seems to de­bunk the own­er­ship myth. The un­pop­u­lar sit­ting pres­i­dent of Venezuela Ni­colás Maduro – a Chavez-hand­picked suc­ces­sor – also con­ceded and rec­og­nized the ad­verse elec­tion re­sults to his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

News dis­patches by for­eign jour­nal­ists from var­i­ous wire ser­vices re­ported how the Smart­matic pro­vided “end-to-end vot­ing plat­form” in Venezuela in­cluded bio­met­rics au­then­ti­ca­tion, vot­ing, re­sults trans­mis­sion, tal­ly­ing and re­sults broad­cast­ing. No­tably, a sim­i­lar sys­tem will be used in the Philip­pines in the next May, 2016 na­tional and lo­cal elec­tions.

There were a to­tal of 13 tech­ni­cal au­dits be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the elec­tion to en­sure the in­tegrity of the elec­tion sys­tem, in­clud­ing source code re­view, ma­chine as­sem­bly, bio­met­rics au­then­ti­ca­tion sys­tem op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of all soft­ware el­e­ments. Tech­ni­cians rep­re­sent­ing each party con­test­ing the elec­tions par­tic­i­pated in ev­ery au­dit and con­firmed the sys­tem’s proper op­er­a­tion.

This most re­cent Venezue­lan elec­tion ex­pe­ri­ence should teach a les­son or two to the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion lead­ers in our own coun­try.

It un­der­scores the im­por­tance of re­views and au­dits such as the cur­rent source code re­view on­go­ing at De La Salle Univer­sity. To date, the Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec) and Smart­matic are still ap­peal­ing to ac­cred­ited re­view­ers to show up and do their share in check­ing out the elec­tion sys­tem.

The source code re­view al­lows par­tic­i­pants to read the code line by line to check for flaws; its per­for­mance, func­tion­al­ity and se­cu­rity; con­sis­tency with the over­all pro­gram de­sign; and ad­her­ence to cod­ing stan­dards.

With more than seven months to re­view the soft­ware that runs the vote count­ing ma­chines, po­lit­i­cal par­ties only have them­selves to blame should they ques­tion the re­sults of the 2016 polls. It will be re­called that in 2013, po­lit­i­cal par­ties com­plained of lack of trans­parency and in­suf­fi­cient time to re­view the source code. Now is the best time to do it.

Speak­ing of elec­tion ma­chines, our own Com­elec of­fi­cials and law­mak­ers who joined the re­cent trip to Smart­matic’s Tai­wan fa­cil­ity gave the firm pos­i­tive re­views. The team was led by Com­elec Chair­man An­dres Bautista, Com­elec di­rec­tor James Jimenez, Reps. Os­car Ro­driguez and Ni­ca­sio Alip­ing Jr. from the Joint Con­gres­sional Over­sight Com­mit­tee (JCOC), Con­gress­man Fred Cas­tro and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the elec­tion watch­dog Parish Pas­toral Coun­cil for Re­spon­si­ble Vot­ing (PPCRV).

The Com­elec also in­vited pri­vate me­dia to join the plant tour of Smart­matic’s Main­board Fac­tory where it has been pro­duc­ing most of its main­boards since 2005.

Of the to­tal 93,977 vote count­ing ma­chines (VCMs), the Com­elec dis­closed ear­lier Smart­matic will de­liver 21,000 units by end of De­cem­ber this year; 30,000 VCMs will ar­rive by the mid­dle of Jan­uary, 2016; and the re­main­ing VCMs will be de­liv­ered by the end of Jan­uary.

Out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Benigno “Noy” Aquino III dis­tin­guished him­self not only as the coun­try’s first bach­e­lor Pres­i­dent elected into of­fice. P-Noy is also re­garded as the first PCOS-elected Chief Ex­ec­u­tive. PCOS stood for the much-ma­ligned precinct count op­ti­cal scan (PCOS) ma­chines – also sup­plied by Smart­matic – which were used in our coun­try’s maiden au­to­mated elec­tions dur­ing the May, 2010 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Also elected through PCOS were also the same of­fi­cials now run­ning for higher or same of­fice like Vice Pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar Binay who beat then Sen.Mar Roxas II.

In­ci­den­tally, the same PCOS ma­chines were used again dur­ing the mid-term elec­tions in May, 2013 when now front-run­ning pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant Sen.Grace Poe topped the Se­nate race.

But even as Binay and Roxas are run­ning again as ri­vals in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the lat­ter has not with­drawn his poll protest be­fore the Pres­i­den­tial Elec­toral Tri­bunal (PET). Roxas claims the “null” votes should be counted in his fa­vor given the slim mar­gin of vic­tory of Binay over him in the 2010 vice pres­i­den­tial race. “Null” or stray votes are votes that the PCOS ma­chines did not count be­cause of in­cor­rect shad­ing, or voter elected more than one can­di­date, etc.

To date, how­ever, the PET has not ter­mi­nated the Roxas protest. Cu­ri­ously, shouldn’t this poll protest of Roxas be con­sid­ered ef­fec­tively aban­doned af­ter the com­plainant filed a cer­tifi­cate of can­di­dacy to run for higher of­fice?

Both Com­elec and Smart­matic say the new ma­chines to be used in next year’s au­to­mated elec­tions are called VCMs. It is the generic term though of PCOS that has earned pe­jo­ra­tive mean­ing for elec­tronic cheating that was never proven.

As the new VCM ma­chines are de­liv­ered, it is in­cum­bent upon both Smart­matic and Com­elec to ed­u­cate users about their new fea­tures and ba­sic in­struc­tions for use. Voter ed­u­ca­tion in the next few months is crit­i­cal to pre­serve faith in the sys­tem. Af­ter all, this is only the sec­ond time that Filipinos are us­ing again this au­to­mated sys­tem to elect the new pres­i­dent of the coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.