Credible elections can save us from chaos

Elections are very important in a democracy because they give citizens the right to choose leaders and to hold them accountable for their performance in office. It is crucial that we have credible elections if we want to promote peaceful, democratic political progression that leads to increased stability and economic prosperity. The fundamental principle that defines credible elections is that they must reflect the free expression of the will of the people.

The Commission on Elections on Tuesday assured senators that adequate measures are in place to ensure glitch-free national and local elections on May 9. However, the National Bureau of Investigation disclosed at the same Senate hearing that a former contractual employee of Smartmatic was able to hack its data server. The Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, chaired by Senator Imee Marcos, learned from the NBI that the hacker was not acting alone. Senators also learned that Smartmatic, Comelec’s software provider, also rents and repairs vote counting machines used by the poll body (Read, “Comelec assures senators cyber security in place for May polls,” in the BusinessMirror, April 19, 2022).

At the hearing, Atty. Victor Lorenzo, head of the NBI Cybercrime Division, said it was likely that the former employee of Smartmatic, Ricardo Argana, was not acting alone, noting he was “not too fluent in English” and it was unlikely that only one man can log in 726 times in six days to enter Smartmatic’s data server.

In an earlier Senate hearing, Senator Marcos has expressed shock at some electoral security threats that surfaced. She said government agencies involved in the coming elections could no longer implement electoral security checks that had been agreed on. Where observer access was easy in the past, the Comelec now prohibits political party representatives, non-governmental organizations, and the public from monitoring the configuration of SD cards at the technical hub in Santa Rosa, Laguna. “The Comelec has already configured all the SD cards for Mindanao to Region 4, in total absence of witnesses. Only the SD cards for three regions remain to be processed,” Senator Marcos said. “We all know that SD cards have been the rabbit pulled out of the cheating hat in past elections.”

The senator added that the same lack of transparency was evident at the National Printing Office, which was able to print 66.4 percent of the ballots for the May elections without being monitored.

Overseas voting began on April 10 and will last until May 9. Our OFWs may only vote for president, vice president, 12 senators, and a party-list group. This early, however, many issues have emerged, thanks to social media platforms where OFWs are airing their complaints. In Hong Kong, for example, a number of voters said they were issued pre-shaded ballots. They also complained that the vote counting machine failed to read the votes for president, and only the votes for vice president and senators appear in voting receipts.

In Milan, overseas Filipino workers (OFW) complained that they were issued ballots with handwritten numbers. They wonder why there’s no vote counting machine, and why they were asked to put their filled out ballots in an ordinary box.

A free election is one in which all citizens are able to vote for the candidate of their choice, and a clean election is one in which all votes are properly counted. As the premier guardian of the ballot, it would do well for the Comelec to address the issues raised by our OFW voters. It can’t afford to be indifferent to any form of election misconduct, here and abroad.

Election fraud can lead to civil conflict. A credible election is at the heart of our democracy, and all citizens must help protect the integrity of the ballot.


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