Election integrity is at the heart of democracy. Our governing system only works when we elect leaders in clean, honest and peaceful elections. As the guardian of the ballot, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must see to it that transparency is integrated into every aspect of its operations relative to the conduct of the May 9 presidential polls. We are happy that the poll body came out of it with flying colors.
It pays to learn from past issues that could undermine the electoral process. The Comelec said better preparations for the May 9 presidential polls prevented a repeat of the controversial “seven-hour glitch” in the May 2019 polls, which left the vote tally for media partners empty on the night after polls closed. The incident caused significant concerns from election observers.
In the name of transparency, Comelec, for the first time, disclosed the locations of the servers it will use in the May 9, 2022 polls as early as two months before the elections so the public could monitor for any irregularities in its operations. Comelec said its main server is located at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig; the back-up server in Libis in Eastwood, Quezon City; the transparency server in Sucat, Parañaque; and the media server at the University of Santo Tomas.
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejosaid they opted to divulge the locations of the servers to dispel concerns from lawmakers and the public about possible tampering of the said servers.“Although the disclosure will lead to small security risks, we are confident the Philippine National Police are capable of securing their locations,” Casquejo said. Comelec Information and Technology Officer Roderick Ilagan said the 2022 polls also marked the first time when all the main, back-up, and transparency servers were located in data centers certified by the International Organization for Standardization.
When the poll body delivered the fastest election results ever, detractors said it is a result of cheating. Although 107,000 of the vote counting machines performed flawlessly, partial observers focused on the 200 VCMs that reported issues during the early hours of voting. Blame your congressman for the defective VCMs. Congress slashed the Comelec budget in an election year.
Allegations of election cheating emerged after the quick count of partial and unofficial tally of votes showed that front-runner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had a wide lead over his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo. Statistics experts from the University of the Philippines, however, found no irregularities in the consistent voting pattern in the partial and unofficial results of the 2022 presidential race.
Poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting found no discrepancies in the unofficial count of election returns, according to PPCRV Chairperson Myla Villanueva. She said as of Wednesday night, the transparency server posted that 98.31 percent of the 107,785 total number clustered precincts were counted without any discrepancies reported, disputing allegations of a “fixed gap” between the votes of Marcos Jr. and his closest rival, Vice President Robredo.
Villanueva said this year’s presidential election is the “most modern” automated election in the world that Filipinos should be proud of. “Imagine that, 106,000 precincts, one person, one vote. When you feed that ballot into the machine, it is right away sent to canvassing systems that add up your votes and show up on the boards,” she said in a forum at the PPCRV Command Center at the UST campus.
Despite the challenge presented by Covid-19, almost 90 percent of the country’s 65.7 million registered voters cast their votes on May 9 to choose the next president. We congratulate the Comelec for a job well done. We salute the 647,812 teaching and non-teaching staff from the Department of Education that served as poll workers, the uniformed personnel from the law enforcement agencies that helped ensure peaceful elections, and the members of socio-civic organizations such as the PPCRV who volunteered to help make the exercise truly reflective of the people’s will.