Election season is upon us – and it’s never been this fierce. With concerns about tampered votes, black propaganda and machinery, Attorney Kris Ablan of the Commission on Elections has been kind enough to post a helpful FAQ on ballots, voter receipts and the VCM.
1. How is my ballot protected?
Your ballot is printed at the National Printing Office (NPO) with several security features such as a UV mark and a precinct bar code. Furthermore, it is printed on a distinctive security paper, and cut to an irregular size. All these measures make your ballot difficult to forge.
2. How is the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) for my clustered precinct protected?
The machine you will use is precinct and ballot specific – this means it cannot be used in any other place using other ballots. Also, all machines will be tested and sealed by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) in front of witnesses a few days before the election, and will only be unsealed at 5am on election day.
3. How can I be sure the VCM reads my vote correctly?
The VCM has master instructions called the source code. These instructions have been posted and subject to public scrutiny at De La Salle University (DLSU) for review and verification the past 7 months. Political parties, election watchdogs, and other independent reviewers have analyzed the instructions and ruled out any malicious commands. The approved source code is now secured inside the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
If you shade properly, it will read that cote. If you don’t shade any ovals, the machine will not count any vote. If you share more than the number of votes allowed, the VCM will rule it out as an overvote and not count any vote.
4. What if my voter receipt does not match who I voted for?
We are confident that the receipt will reflect the candidates you voted for. However, in the unlikely event that it does not match, COMELEC Rules have a protest mechanism. You may approach the BEI Chairman and notify him or her of the discrepancy. The Chairman is required to write your name and note the incident. After you sign the back of the receipt, it will be set aside for investigation.
5. What if they refuse to note it, and even tear my voter’s receipt in front of me?
You are advised to take note of the name of the BEI member and the details of the incident. After that, report to the City/Municipal Election Officer. You may make a sworn affidavit to strengthen your claim. The COMELEC recently entered into a Memorandum of Agreement or MOA with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) to set up legal help desks in all the voting centers. Voters are welcome to approach any of their volunteer lawyers for assistance.
6. How can I be sure that the votes counted in my precinct are the same votes reflected in the Board of Canvassers?
After the elections close, the VCM is programmed to print 8 copies of the election returns. One is sent to the Parish Pastoral Council for Resonsible Voting (PPRCV). The data is transmitted via a virtual private network (VPN) to three servers, one of which will be maintained by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). The 8 copies are printed BEFORE transmission to assure that the results are consistent at all levels.
7. Even so, how can I be certain the machines won’t be hacked – or rigged?
The SD cards used are secured with 256 bit encryption, which is known for being very difficult to hack. As for being rigged, COMELEC has consulted the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), to run random manual audit (RMA) in 715 randomly selected clustered precincts spread all over the country. This means all the ballots are counted manually. After, the results will be compared with the machine tally, and if a deviation exists, a report may be filed which will lead to a manual count.
This RMA is a warning to all groups: do NOT mess with the elections.
8. What if I still don’t believe in all this?
Paulo Coelho shares with us 5 tips that help defeat cynicism:
A.Recognize the problem
B.Recognize each cynical thought
C. Use logic to debate the cynicism
D. Make a definitive choice to be positive
E. Focus on people’s qualities
When a comment asked if voters are allowed to take photos of their receipt, Atty. Ablan said no. It is disallowed, he explained, to protect the voter from fear and intimidation. In case pictures are taken anyway, BEIs have been instructed to report these incidents to the authorities for violating the Omnibus Election Code.
In addition to this, he also shares in a separate post other more traditional ways election operators may influence the elections outside of the AES. He warns voters to watch out for the following:
A. Gathering identified supporters to line up early, as well as holding up the line to disenfranchise the other voters;
B. Supporters taking their time and delaying their voting, also to disenfranchise other voters;
C. Vote buying;
D. Being a menace to opposing voters outside of the precinct or voting center;
E. Posting fake voter’s lists with missing names outside the voting center;