Overwhelming victory

THE recent Pulse Asia Survey shows Noynoy Aquino gathering 44 percent of the national vote and Manny Villar, 19 percent. These numbers affirm an earlier SWS poll bearing similar figures. The survey results can be used to exemplify the discussion in this space on Nov. 8.

Overcoming no-win. In that column, I opined that an overwhelming victory in favor of the winning presidential bet (whoever he might be) is the best and most practical way to overcome failure of elections (no-el), failure of proclamation (no-proc) and no winner (no-win) scenarios. If the margin of victory were huge, computer glitches and errors (whether intended or not) would not lead to a failed election.

The Commission on Elections estimates that about 47 million voters are registered for next year’s race. At an 85-percent turnout, about 40 million ballots would be cast. Using the Pulse Asia percentages, Aquino would gather about 17.6 million votes over Villar’s 7.6 million for a lead of 10 million.

At this rate, glitches and errors involving, say, two or three million votes will not result in a no-win. Even if all these two or three million votes were added to Villar’s 7.6 million and deducted from Aquino’s 17.6 million, the latter would surely still be entitled to a proclamation. To stress, I am not saying Villar would cheat or would lose. I am just exemplifying a point using the Pulse Asia figures.

Antidote to dagdag-bawas. Overwhelming victory is also an antidote to automated dagdag-bawas, a subject I took up last Nov. 15. In the 2004 presidential poll, the opposition estimated that the “Hello Garci” and other poll scandals subtracted one million votes from Fernando Poe Jr. and added them to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Neither this claim of fraud nor the extent of the cheating was judicially proven because the Supreme Court (acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal) dismissed the protest of Poe due to his untimely death. But assuming the claim to be true and assuming further that similar snags happen next year, the one or even two million dagdag-bawas would not negate a Noynoy victory.

In fact, I think the usual suspects—knowing the insurmountable lead of Noynoy in the surveys (assuming it is maintained)—may not even attempt to manipulate the results because they would certainly know its futility and would not want to be prosecuted for it later.

Overwhelming victory is also the solution to unconstitutional schemes—like the so-called “transition government” hatched by then national security adviser, now (susmariosep!) Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales. I am appalled that after advocating such patently illegal plot, Gonzales would be rewarded with a premier Cabinet post. And because his appointment was issued in an “acting” capacity, he need not pass the Commission on Appointments to enable him to use the vast powers of that office to pursue shadowy plans.

To my mind, Gonzales’ befuddling promotion does not inspire confidence in the administration’s intentions in the coming polls. But no matter; an overwhelming victory would foil any subversive plot. I think the Armed Forces of the Philippines would not enforce anything constitutionally abhorrent. In past crises, the AFP had always sided with the people.

Technical solutions. Overwhelming victory, though the best and most practical way of combating all sorts of election shenanigans, should not lull us into neglecting technical solutions to automated fraud. To my plea for antidotes to dagdag-bawas, Comelec IT consultant Renato B. Garcia called me to clarify that SysTest Labsthe software company contracted by the poll body to certify the source codeis in constant touch with Smartmatic to solve problems in the certification process. He assured me that come February 2010, the source code would absolutely pass the scrutiny of political parties, candidates and citizens’ arms.

He added that the Smartmatic system has a formidable self-check; that the PCOS machines will transmit the precinct counts simultaneously to the municipal, district, provincial and national canvassing centers, including one for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting office at the Pope Pius XII Center in Manila.

Hence, the Comelec canvass for senators and the Congress canvass for the presidential race can be triple-checked with first, the direct feed from the PCOS; second, the “hierarchical” or consolidated feed from the municipal, district and provincial canvasses; and third, the PPCRV count.

Namfrel count. In addition, poll watchdogs like Namfrel could do a parallel count. Namfrel had earlier said it would no longer conduct a “quick count” because it could not tally faster than the PCOS that would produce the final electronic national results in just three days.

However, Namfrel could conduct a parallel, though slower, count by using one of the 30 hard copies produced at the precincts by the PCOS and consolidating them electronically via its own facilities. By agreement, the Comelec could give Namfrel, say, seven days to complete its national count. And the various boards of canvassers could, also by agreement, wait for the Namfrel parallel count before proclaiming the winners.

To sum up, overwhelming victory is the best and most practical way to combat election frauds. But we should not neglect the technical and other viable ways to perfect the automated system and institutionalize it as the trusted method of ensuring honest, orderly and peaceful elections (hope) now and in the future.

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