Recommendations of the HALAL Citizens Audit Report #4 on the 2007 Senatorial Elections

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the results of its 2007 citizens’ audit and its experiences in conducting the audit, Halalang Marangal (HALAL) hereby recommends the following measures to correct the problems of the 2007 elections and to ensure that the next election will be conducted in a cleaner and more credible manner:

  1. Identify and bring to justice all who were involved in the Maguindanao election fraud. The Maguindanao election fraud should be thoroughly investigated and those found responsible should be brought to justice, including those who falsified or who forced Comelec officials to falsify results and official documents; those who hid, stole or destroyed the original documents containing the true results, if any; those who ordered the murder and/or kidnapping of election officials who exposed the fraud; those who, despite the statistical and circumstantial evidence, officially accepted these results and foisted them on the Filipino people; and those who offered to pay or otherwise reward local officials deliver them the votes, regardless of the true people’s will.
  2. Exclude implausible, impossible results. In the case of highly implausible results, the burden of proof should be on Comelec officials and others who assert that these numbers are truthful. In the meantime, while the investigation is going on, the implausible results should be excluded from the official 2007 results. The statistically impossible results should be excluded forthwith from the official results. On the concern that this will disenfranchise the voters in those provinces and cities, our answer is that they were already disenfranchised by those who manufactured these results. Excluding statistically impossible results simply prevents the further disenfranchisement of those whose votes would be negated by the falsified returns.
  3. Comelec retraining. All Comelec officials should undergo retraining on the importance of the required statistics in Comelec forms, especially the number of voters who actually voted and the number of precincts actually tallied. The latter should be the sum of the same statistic from lower levels, and not simply copied from the total number of precincts in the province. No ER, SOV or COC should be accepted or submitted for further canvassing unless all information required are filled in. Strict disciplinary measures should be taken against Comelec officials who submit or accept incompletely filled-up forms. Comelec officials who do not know how to add should be summarily dismissed from the service.
  4. Redesign Comelec forms. The SOV should be redesigned to include the number of ERs actually canvassed in the same column as the number of registered voters and the number of voters who actually voted. The COC should also be redesigned to include the number of voters who actually voted in the first page of the COC. Because they can be looked up from existing Comelec records, the number of registered voters and the total number of precincts are non-essential information and may be omitted from the forms.
  5. Provide certified true copies of ERs, SOVs and COCs to all who want them. Requiring that a copy of the ER be posted in every precinct was a good step in transparency though it was not observed in many instances. Likewise, the provision in the new automation law for 35 copies of the ER to be made available was a good transparency measure, though it was not implemented. HALAL recommends that ERs be encoded into computers as soon as they are brought to a municipal canvassing center. HALAL recommends, once the ERs are encoded, that original printouts be made available at cost to any interested party, during the municipal canvassing and afterwards, as certified true copies of these ERs. Similarly, original printouts of SOVs and COCs should be made available at cost to any interested party, during the municipal canvassing and afterwards, as certified true copies of these documents. With so many copies of results circulating, tampered or manufactured election documents can be easily exposed. HALAL further recommends, once ERs are encoded, that all subsequent consolidations, additions of row and column totals, computations of indicators like voter turnouts and ballot fill-up rates, and the printing of certified true copies of SOVs/COCs be done with computers. This will minimize clerical errors arising from mistakes in copying numbers or adding them, improve the legibility of the documents, and facilitate the printing of an unlimited number of copies of official election documents for any interested party.
  6. Put all ERs, SOVs and COCs online. All ERs, SOVs and COCs should be put online or at least be made available to any interested party, together with their file checksums, at no additional cost, making the entire tabulation process completely transparent.
  7. Retain parallel counts in subsequent elections. As this audit shows, a parallel count facilitates the monitoring of the official canvass and the investigation of electoral fraud. We recommend that parallel counts be made a continuing part of the canvassing process, even under a regime of automation. Automation will make it easier to provide not just a single accredited group but any political party, poll watching group, media, or anyone at all with copies of ERs, SOVs and COCs, who may then may do their own parallel count. This way, automation will enhance transparency and enable more people to participate meaningfully in poll watching, instead of the typical automation goal to “minimize human intervention”.
  8. Retain manual precinct-level counting in the next elections. HALAL further recommends that the manual counting of votes at the precinct level be retained in the next election. The manual counting of votes at the precinct level is superior to automated counting in terms of openness, transparency, and providing an invaluable lesson in civics to all participants and witnesses. Because it is non-automated and open, it is slow enough that any citizen can actually audit in real-time the counting process. But because of its massively parallel approach of simultaneous tallies in all the two hundred thousand plus precincts in the country, tt is also fast enough that results are usually in within 6-12 hours.
  9. Automate the printing, public distribution and consolidation of results. HALAL suggests that the following phases of the canvassing process be automated in the next elections: the on-site printing of ERs, SOVs and COCs, so that anyone can get official copies of these documents; the consolidation of ERs and COCs into SOVs and the generation of COCs from SOVs; their public distribution through the Internet/Web; and the generation of the final results. Such automation can be done at relatively low cost by providing at least two computers with printers and battery backups per municipality (per district in chartered cities), together with operators familiar with spreadsheet programs. In the next election, official municipal results should be printed out and at the same time saved on USB sticks and put online, where these can again be printed out upon receipt at the provincial level for double-checking before they are consolidated into provincial results. A similar procedure can be followed for national consolidation. By making all intermediate results available to the public at every step, automation can enhance the transparency and therefore the credibility of the whole process, at the same time enabling any citizen to participate more fully in the electoral process.
  10. Municipal-level audit by Comelec. Finally, HALAL recommends that the Comelec conduct a similar audit comparing the Comelec and NAMFREL results at the municipal level. HALAL offers to help the Comelec conduct such an audit. This official audit can provide the basis for determining where fraud was actually committed, gathering the evidence, and pinpointing culpability. Eventually, administrative and/or criminal charges should be filed against those who are found responsible for the fraud.
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