I just want to share my opinion as to the issues raised in a Facebook post and the answer from the Philippine Embassy in London regarding the allegation of fraud because of the “DAANG MATUWID” attached to Mar Roxas’s and Leni Robredo’s names and the implementation of the Overseas Voting regarding postal voting.
I also give my reaction on about a post on postal voting vis-a-vis voting in person to get a receipt despite opting to vote by mail.
THE USE OF “DAANG MATUWID” IS ALLOWED AS A NICKNAME
Let me be clear that I am not supporting the Roxas-Robredo tandem. My Facebook profile photo is an obvious indication of that. I have no fear about this issue.
In my previous experience as a paralegal and as a lawyer in elections in the Philippines in the local levels, the use of nicknames for which a candidate is popular known is allowed by the Omnibus Election Code. This is provided for under Section 74 under Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, which states that:
“Sec. 74. Contents of certificate of candidacy – .…He may also include one nickname or stage name by which he is generally or popularly known in the locality…”
It should be remembered that when Ramon Revilla, Sr. first ran as a Senator using his real name, “Jose Bautista,” he did not win. But on his second attempt, he used his stage name, “Ramon Revilla” and the slogan “Agimat ng Masa.” This time, he won a Senate seat for two terms.
Senator Ralph Recto was allowed to use as his nickname, “Vilma Santos” after his marriage to the said popular celebrity. Atty. Perfecto Yasay used “Kidlat” when he ran as Vice-President, a word which made him popular when then President Joseph Estrada told him via phone patch in a TV program, “tamaan ka sana ng kidlat.” I even encountered in a barangay election where “Pula Mata” was written on the ballot but credited to a candidate, who popularly fits that description without objection from the watchers (everybody was laughing when it was read aloud).
As to the use of “DAANG MATUWID,” a former COMELEC Commissioner, Gregorio Larrazabal, who is a Nationalist People’s Coalition party lawyer said that this is a violation of the law because it is a campaign slogan and cannot be used as a nickname or stage name.
However, COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista countered that “DAANG MATUWID” was written by Roxas and Robredo as their nicknames in their respective Certificate of Candidacy. He added that those who question it may file a formal complaint.
“DAANG MATUWID” AS A HIDDEN CODE IS SPECULATIVE
A certain Maria Fe Suan Escalante-Mcbride stated in 02 May 2016 on her Facebook wall:
“I have read in Pinoy Trending News about the theory with regards to this mysterious ‘Daang Matuwid’ found on the official ballot – An IT expert has explained that the ‘Daang Matuwid’ could be a hidden code that the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) will read as a vote for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo even if the voters had shaded the oval beside the name of their preferred candidate.”
I checked her source of information, “Pinoy Trending News” and found out that it is a personal blog site of somebody who did not mention his name but describes himself as a “Physical Therapist, an ex-Saudi, a former Tech Support from Teletech and a Virtual Assistants for an American businessman promoting various ISP’s in the United States and a British businessman with interest in providing SEO services to various clients in the United Kingdom.”
We should not readily believe hook, line and sinker whatever is posted on a blog when its reliability cannot be easily and readily determined. So much so when the blogger or author does not even state his name or real name. Thus, such an opinion is subject to a dispute.
The fear that the Vote Counting Machines may be used in electoral fraud is not unfounded as far as the trend on digital hacking is concerned. But the different political parties may have addressed this fear by hiring their own experts to do their own inspections and investigations of the election equipment and paraphernalia. Sample copies of the ballots to be used were also furnished to all concerned. More or less, the candidates have been aware of the respective names of the candidates that will appear on the ballots.
If there is a real intent to perpetrate fraud, the culprits may use words other than “DAANG MATUWID.” Even the names of each candidate may be used to instruct the counting machine to produce a different result. Or perhaps some hidden features that only the counting machine can detect may be resorted to.
Further, if there is a grand plan of rigging easily the result, the Roxas-Robredo team should not have resorted to a tremendous and exhaustive campaigning in addition to political ads. Even President Noynoy Aquino is working hard to promote them to the public and even having an audience with the leader of an influential religious group.
But of course, I am not discounting any form of cheating.
DOUBLE BALLOTS, NO FRAUD
Previously, voters need to request the Philippine embassy in London to either personally pick up the ballot or to have it posted to their addresses by sending a letter, an email or a text message to manifest their intent to vote via the postal voting system.
However, COMELEC Resolution No. 10087 promulgated on April 8, 2016 provides that “ALL POSTS ADOPTING THE MIXED MODE OF VOTING ARE ALLOWED TO MAIL THE BALLOTS TO THE VOTERS WITHOUT WAITING FOR THE LATTER TO SUBMIT THEIR REQUESTS…”
An issue was brought up on Facebook by the same Maria Fe Suan Esclante-Mcbride. She stated, “I was surprised to received a Postal Ballot, at my home – as I had already voted on the first day of the election, 9 Apr at the Embassy! This means there are spare Ballots available for the Embassy’s disposal to commit possible election fraud?” She further said that she thought she could vote again but instead kept the “spare” ballot as an evidence.
Consul General Senen Mangalile replied on this issue via a Facebook comment by stating, “Yung kaso po ni Maria Fe na napadalhan ng balota by post kahit nakaboto na, maaari pong pagkakamali ng mga nag-prepare ng mahigit 25,000 mailing packets. Tao po sila at hindi robot kaya posibleng magkamali. Aalamin po natin kung paano ito nangyari. Pero hindi po ibig sabihin noon ay dalawang beses syang makakaboto. Pagkatanggap po ng SBRCG sa balota na ipinadala by post, ihahambing po iyan sa List of Voters with Voting Record. Makikita po doon na nakaboto na si Maria Fe dahil may pirma sya, so ang envelope na galing sa kanya – tandaan: may pangalan at pirma din dapat sa envelope – ay magiging invalid ballot na.”
Mrs. Escalante-Mcbride should note that the instruction to all embassies to post all ballots to the overseas voters came later after the advisory and information given after the final testing and sealing of the Vote Counting Machines.
In the abovementioned Resolution No. 10087, it is explained in a whereas clause that this matter was the product of a “series of on-site trainings in the American and European Regions from March 10-15, 2016” where “representatives from various embassies and consulates adopting the mixed mode of voting have unanimously proposed to mail ballots directly to the voters without waiting for the latter’s requests in order to INCREASE THE CHANCE OF ENFRANCHSING THESE VOTERS AND INCREASE THE VOTER TURN-OUT.” (Emphasis mine)
Thus, it is not right to assume that the COMELEC just came up with such a idea by itself. The embassies, therefore, only has the ministerial duty to abide by the order of the COMELEC.
VOTERS WHO RECEIVED BALLOTS VIA POST WITH OR WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT MUST BE ALLOWED TO PERSONALLY CAST THEIR VOTES
Maria Fe Suan Esclante-Mcbride also stated that she met some voters who received their ballots by post but were allegedly not allowed to personally feed their ballot into the VCM. She opined that this “seems geared to deprive voters the ability to verify their votes – any automated cheating would benefit only the administration party!”
Consul General Senen Mangalile answered it this way: “Bawat isang balota po ay kabilang sa isang libong balota na kaugnay naman ng isang SD Card na inilalagay sa vote counting machine. Kapag ibang SD card po ang nakalagay sa makina, hindi babasahin ang balotang hindi kabilang sa nasabing SD card. Ito po ay para maseguro na hindi pwedeng manipulahin ng iisang tao o iillang tao ang makina may extrang balota man silang hawak. Bakit po? Dahil ang SD cards po ay hawak ng SBRCG samantalang ang makina ay pwede lamang buksan ng SBEI.”
He added, “Ito rin po ang dahilan kung kaya ang mga nagdadala ng balota ng personal sa embahada pagkatapos itong matanggap by mail ay hindi personal na makapagsubo ng balota sa makina. Ito po ay dahil kakailanganing isarado ang makina, tanggalin ang seal ng SD card slot, alisin ang SD card ng mga balotang ginagamit sa personal voting, hanapin ang katumbas na SD Card ng balotang ipinadala by mail, ilagay ang tamang SD card, buksan ang makina, isubo ang balota, isarado ulit ang makina, alisin ang SD card, ibalik ang SD card ng mga balotang ginagamit sa personal voting, i-seal ang slot, buksan ang makina. Bawat isang balota po na galing sa iba’t ibang set ganyan ang gagawin, MAAANTALA po ang bumoboto ng personal. Kaya po kung ang balota ay natanggap by mail, ang trato po sa balotang iyan ay postal voting kahit personal pang iaabot sa embahada.” (all caps supplied)
I am one with Mrs. Escalante-Mcbride on allowing voters who received ballots by post to personally feed the ballots into the VCM. This is not only in accordance with the policy to enfranchise the voters but also with the order of the Supreme Court for COMELEC to ensure that the VCMs will print a Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (Voter’s Receipt for brevity).
In the case of Bagumbayan and Gordon vs. COMELEC, G.R. No. 222731, March 8, 2016, the Supreme Court said that “the inaction of the Commission on Elections in utilizing the VVPAT Feature of the vote-counting machines fails to fulfill the duty required under Republic Act No. 8436, as amended.”
The SC also mentioned that “the VVPAT ensures that the candidates selected by the voter in his or her ballot are the candidates voted upon and recorded by the vote-counting machine. The voter himself or herself verifies the accuracy of the vote.”
In Maliksi vs. COMELEC, the Supreme Court found out how several ballots were tampered with by the presence of double-shading, thus, invalidating the votes. But upon checking the digital printouts, the tampered ballots only had a single shade. This could have been avoided if COMELEC implemented the voter’s receipt feature.
In the COMELEC Resolutions implementing the 2016 Overseas Voting, there is no provision that prohibits a voter to personally cast his or her vote after receiving the ballot by post or after the ballot was personally picked up at the embassy.
Actually, COMELEC Resolution No. 10052, promulgated on February 3, 2016, allows this process. It is provided therein in this wise:
MODIFIED POSTAL VOTING
x x x
Sec. 26. Procedures for sending the mailing packets to the voters. – Upon receipt of the mailing packets, ballots and other election forms, the SBRCG shall:
x x x
e) Upon receipt of request from voter to mail the ballots, the SBRCG shall:
x x x
The above procedures will apply, in case the voter opts to receive the ballot personally and cast it on a later date during the voting period. For this purpose, all ballots issued to the voters who will cast them on a later date must be submitted in a sealed Official Ballot Envelopes and must undergo a verification process before the voter OR the SBRCG feeds the ballots to the Vote Counting Machine (VCM).” (emphasis supplied)
It is crytal clear in this Resolution that under the modified postal voting, the voter who opted to obtain the ballot either by post or personally can cast the same “on a later date during the voting period” and after verification of the authenticity of the envelope and identification of the voter, he or she “feeds the ballots” to the VCM. The disjunctive word “OR” pertains to the feeding of the ballot to the VCM by 1. either the voter who received the ballot by post but opted to cast it personally, or 2. the SBRCG as to the ballots sent by post.
With some rumours milling around in some other countries that the candidates voted for are different to what is printed on the voter’s receipt, the voters may think of personally feeding his or her ballot to ensure that the candidates he or she voted for are the ones that the VCM has counted.
Consul General Mangalile’s statement that the ballots being segregated into sets for personal voting and postal voting which correspond to a batch of SD cards is not a ground for not allowing a postal voter to vote personally.
This is true specially when the voter did not opt to vote by post, but the ballot was sent to him or her because of the COMELEC instruction but already planned to vote personally later on.. Thus, he or she will be deprived of the right to have a physical receipt of who he or she voted for if he or she is not allowed to feed the ballot personally only because of the inconvenience it may cause. With regard to postal voters who mailed their ballots, they are deemed to have waived their right to a voter’s receipt.
Anyway, the Consul General said that once a voter has voted personally, he or she will not be able to re-vote using the ballot received at a latter time because his or her name will be verified against the list of voters who voted.
Let it be noted that the SBEI has the ministerial duty to allow the voters to cast their votes and part of it is to have the voter feed the ballot into the VCM. The members thereof cannot by themselves disallow a voter from voting, unless the voter’s identification is different from the voter’s list or upon a challenge posed by a watcher or another voter where the challenged voter is prohibited to vote under the rules.
DELAY IN COUNTING IS NOT A GROUND IN DISALLOWING PERSONAL CASTING OF BALLOT
Consul General Mangalile added that in allowing those who opted for postal voting to vote personally will only cause delay for those who opted to vote personally because of the seemingly arduos process of closing, opening, resealing, etc. of the VCMs and SD cards by the SBRCG and SBEI.
In the aforementioned case of Bagumbayan, the Supreme Court did not buy the argument of COMELEC that utilizing the voter’s receipt system will cause delay in the counting of votes. The letter of the law must prevail for the greater good of transparency. Moreover, the SBEIs are instructed to allow voters to vote even beyond the time to vote if they are around the vicinity of the polling place until all of them has finished casting their votes.
The Consul General mentioned that the ballots received by mail are arranged by batch and to be fed to the VCM during Mondays and Thursdays. This will be done daily starting on May 4, 2016 as per the latest instruction.
But still, this does not negate the rule that the voter under the postal voting mode can opt to personally cast the ballot, which entails feeding the ballot to the machine and getting a voter’s receipt to this effect.
The right of suffrage is a well-entrenched right in the Constitution. The State must ensure that the voters are not disenfranchised instead of defeating it. In order to fulfill this, elections must be credible, honest, orderly and transparent. The people must also be vigilant in protecting their right to vote and in safeguarding the sanctity of the ballot in order to reflect the real will of the electorate.
Note: I have copied and pasted in toto the Facebook post and comment about the issues discussed above.
Possible Election Fraud!
Philippine Embassy – London!!
– One Ballot per Voter…
But it seems that is not the case with me! I was surprised to received a Postal Ballot, at my home – as I had already voted on the first day of the election, 9 Apr at the Embassy! This means there are spare Ballots available for the Embassy’s disposal to commit possible election fraud?
I thought I could vote again in favour of Duterte and Cayetano but then I noticed the use of ‘Daang Matuwid’ slogan of the administration party, as the common nickname of Liberal Party standard bearers Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo. So, I opted to hold fast and keep the ballot instead as evidence.
I have read in Pinoy Trending News about the theory with regards to this mysterious ‘Daang Matuwid’ found on the official ballot – An IT expert has explained that the ‘Daang Matuwid’ could be a hidden code that the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) will read as a vote for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo even if the voters had shaded the oval beside the name of their preferred candidate. If this is proven to be true, the result of the election is a foregone conclusion even before the casting of the ballot starts on May 9. This is not impossible if the source code is tampered by the people with a vested interest to rig the election.
Although I was not sure if the ballot paper I used to vote at the Embassy had the ‘Daang Matuwid’ on it – but at least, I was satisfied that I was able to verify my votes as seen on the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipt with my vote cast stated correctly and everything seemed OK. Although the box containing the VVPAT are not sealed.
– The Embassy has now been authorized by the COMELEC, to send out all ballots to voters by post!
The Philippine Embassy London posted on their Embassy webpage an Election Advisory: The Embassy has been authorized by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), to send out all ballots to registered overseas voters by post without waiting for them to submit their requests. All registered voters who have not yet voted are advised to wait for their ballots to arrived by post.
This advisory note is in contrast to the information given to us during the final testing and sealing of VCM – that the VCM is designed for voters to vote in person with exemptions only considered for those who live miles away from the embassy to vote by post. And for the Postal Voting – the voter to either pick up the mailing packet from the Embassy, or request the Embassy to post it to the voter’s registered address. One of the Election Officers explained to send ballots to all voters does cost a lot as there are about 71,000+ registered voters’ which would cost then in excess of £50,000 / 3.5m Pesos. And the voter’s registered addresses might have changed – as a matter of fact, the Embassy posted in their webpage – Notice to the Public: Ballots that were returned to Sender – there are about 90.
On the other hand, I met some voter’s who received their ballot by post but went to the Embassy anyway – as they wanted to personally feed their ballot paper into a VCM to be able to verify their votes are cast correctly through VVPAT but were refused, and not allowed to do so! To me, postal voting seems geared to deprive voters the ability to verify their votes – any automated cheating would benefit only the administration party!
Reply from Philippine embassy in London
Consul General Senen Mangalile /react-text react-text: 261 /react-text Manang Adel, una po sa lahat sana ay maintindihan ng mga bumabasa ng posts na ito na hindi embahada ang nag-print ng balota, hindi embahada ang nag-program ng makina, at lahat ng kilos namin ay dapat ihambing sa nilalaman ng Comelec Resolutions No 10035 at 10045. Basahin po muna sana ito ng mga pumupuna para may basehan sila. Kung mayroon pong sa tingin nila ay maling nagawa, ang tamang paraan po ng pagrereklamo ay sa pamamagitan ng affidavit na dapat sumpaan sa harap ng SBEI. May form po para diyan.
Pangalawa, meron po talagang sobrang balota, dahil lahat ng seafarers ay may karapatang bumoto saan mang embahada na gusto nila. Kung walang sobrang balota at may pumuntang seafarer sa embahada, ano po kaya ang ibibigay namin?
Yung kaso po ni Maria Fe na napadalhan ng balota by post kahit nakaboto na, maaari pong pagkakamali ng mga nag-prepare ng mahigit 25,000 mailing packets. Tao po sila at hindi robot kaya posibleng magkamali. Aalamin po natin kung paano ito nangyari. Pero hindi po ibig sabihin noon ay dalawang beses syang makakaboto. Pagkatanggap po ng SBRCG sa balota na ipinadala by post, ihahambing po iyan sa List of Voters with Voting Record. Makikita po doon na nakaboto na si Maria Fe dahil may pirma sya, so ang envelope na galing sa kanya – tandaan: may pangalan at pirma din dapat sa envelope – ay magiging invalid ballot na.
Bawat isang balota po ay kabilang sa isang libong balota na kaugnay naman ng isang SD Card na inilalagay sa vote counting machine. Kapag ibang SD card po ang nakalagay sa makina, hindi babasahin ang balotang hindi kabilang sa nasabing SD card. Ito po ay para maseguro na hindi pwedeng manipulahin ng iisang tao o iillang tao ang makina may extrang balota man silang hawak. Bakit po? Dahil ang SD cards po ay hawak ng SBRCG samantalang ang makina ay pwede lamang buksan ng SBEI.
Ito rin po ang dahilan kung kaya ang mga nagdadala ng balota ng personal sa embahada pagkatapos itong matanggap by mail ay hindi personal na makapagsubo ng balota sa makina. Ito po ay dahil kakailanganing isarado ang makina, tanggalin ang seal ng SD card slot, alisin ang SD card ng mga balotang ginagamit sa personal voting, hanapin ang katumbas na SD Card ng balotang ipinadala by mail, ilagay ang tamang SD card, buksan ang makina, isubo ang balota, isarado ulit ang makina, alisin ang SD card, ibalik ang SD card ng mga balotang ginagamit sa personal voting, i-seal ang slot, buksan ang makina. Bawat isang balota po na galing sa iba’t ibang set ganyan ang gagawin, maaantala po ang bumoboto ng personal.
Kaya po kung ang balota ay natanggap by mail, ang trato po sa balotang iyan ay postal voting kahit personal pang iaabot sa embahada. Ihahambing po ang pangalan at pirma sa envelope sa voters’ list at malalaman kung valid, invalid o questionable. Tuwing Lunes po at Huwebes sila iniaayos by batch at ipinababasa sa makina. Ayon din po yan sa nasabing resolutions. Mula naman po sa May 4 ay araw-araw na itong gagawin. Utos din po iyan ng Comelec.
Yung resolutions din po ng Comelec ang nagsabi kung hanggang kailan lamang pwedeng mag-appoint ng watchers.
Comelec din po ang nag-utos na hindi pwedeng iuwi ang resibo ng pagboto. Lahat po ng resibo ay inilalagay sa sealed receptacle pagkatapos ng bawat araw ng botohan. Ganun din po ang ginagawa sa resibo ng mga balotang kasama sa batch feeding.
Tagapagpatupad lamang po kami ng utos ng Comelec, at ito po ay ginagawa namin nang walang bias at walang agenda. Pakibasa po ang mga resolutions na iyan para makita ninyo ang mga proseso.