POSTSCRIPT / April 23, 2015 / Thursday
Throw the book at Brillantes et al.
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.
NOW is the time to file a slew of criminal complaints against former Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes for willfully disregarding or disabling safeguards mandated by the Automated Election System law for the last elections.
The signal for his criminal prosecution could be the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling the other day that the P268.8-million midnight service contract signed by Brillantes with Smartmatic-TIM was illegal.
With Brillantes no longer Comelec head and therefore stripped of his can-only-be-removed-by-impeachment shield, those who pine for respect for the law should go after him hammer and tongs.
Or they could wait a little longer, till after June 30 next year, when President Noynoy Aquino – a valued election client of Brillantes — is no longer in office.
Tied with the Smartmatic deal, Brillantes’ violation of the key safeguards mandated by the AES law will keep him busy for the rest of his life coughing out the millions he had amassed as Comelec chair.
The wholesale disregarding or disabling of standard computer security protocols and safeguards by the Brillantes-Smartmatic partnership made possible the commission of poll fraud and the electronic manipulation of election results.
The AES law mandated among other things that:
• The source code that operates the Precinct Count Optical System machines must be made available for public review before the elections. Smartmatic did not, could not, do that since it did not own the source code that it had misrepresented as its property.
• Digital signatures must be used automatically by the PCOS to authenticate the electronic transmission of precinct count results. But this feature was disabled by the Brillantes Comelec, making the poll count used by the Comelec spurious.
■ Tally in 2013 elections bogus
FURTHER exposing the system to fraud and tampering, the Comelec allowed the use of compact flash cards (removable memory devices) that can be over-written to change precinct results.
There were reported instances of local precinct counts showing results of elections in other places. Some of the previously used flash cards, hurriedly brought in, were not reformatted before being installed in the PCOS!
The AES law provides that “the election returns transmitted electronically and digitally signed shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as basis for the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of a candidate.”
There were no such digitally signed election returns, so technically there were no official results in the 2013 elections to go by. The Comelec simply improvised alternatives when problems cropped up during the tabulation.
Arrogating unto itself the power of the Congress to amend the AES law, the Comelec by merely issuing Resolution 8766 of March 4, 2010, instructed the election inspectors nationwide to ignore the safeguards required by law.
No wonder protests and suits questioning poll results erupted in several places. With the evidence largely destroyed by the mishandling of the ballots and other poll paraphernalia, many disputes cannot be satisfactorily settled.
Somebody should be held responsible for the widespread mess, including the Comelec and its business and technical partner Smartmatic.
■ Top presidential choice: NOTA
THERE are many voters who, when asked their preference among the politicians being mentioned as possible presidential candidates in the May 2016 elections, answer “NOTA” or None Of The Above.
The two most common reasons for NOTA are: (1) “Parepareho lang naman sila” (they are all the same), and (2) None of them is qualified.
What do voters mean by “parepareho”? Are they “pareparehong” corrupt, or “pareparehong” not qualified?
That criterion about being corrupt has subsets: “Corrupt, pero madali namang lapitan”, “Corrupt, pero mabait at madaling hingan”.
This is how low the level of voters’ regard for politicians, and for themselves, has fallen.
■ Binay differs with PNoy on China
BUT there is an issue over which we see an important product differentiation between Vice President Jojo Binay and whoever may be the anointed candidate of President Aquino.
On the escalating territorial dispute between the Philippines and its northern neighbor China, I find it remarkable that Binay suggests Manila talking directly with Beijing (if I got him right).
Binay’s tack contrasts with the Aquino administration’s insistence that China talks not bilaterally but multilaterally with its neighbors, notably members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with which it has conflicting territorial maritime claims.
But since Binay is not the president, Aquino’s common ASEAN approach is being followed.
Is it coincidental that the multilateral approach is also the way suggested by the United States to its ASEAN allies discussing disputes with China?
Has Manila adopted the multilateral approach on suggestion of Washington? That line was preached by President Barack Obama and then State Secretary Hillary Clinton when they came over.
Is this part of a US move to circle the wagons of its regional allies to impress upon China the growing American sphere of influence in this part of Asia-Pacific where it has started to redeploy some 60 percent of its forces?
Even if a mutually acceptable compromise is possible with direct bilaterals with China, it is unlikely that the Aquino administration will break away from the US line – especially at this time when military muscle in the South China Sea is crucial for all players.