Today (February 6), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) held mock elections in various parts of the country. The mock polls, which intended to simulate the first ever automated nationwide polls on May 10, covered nine polling centers with 50 pre-selected voters each.
As a volunteer for election watchdog Kontra Daya that monitored the mock polls in Quezon City, Taguig City, Baguio City, Cebu City, and Davao City, I got firsthand information and feedback from those in the field on the various glitches and anomalies that the mock polls faced, the same problems that the actual automated elections may face on May 10.
For me, one of the biggest concerns repeatedly raised in the past and that today’s mock polls confirmed is the very high probability of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines preferred by the Comelec for May 10 disenfranchising hundreds of thousands if not millions of voters. This will seriously undermine the credibility of the national elections and create a major political crisis.
As of this posting, I’m not yet sure if the 50 pre-selected voters per polling center was achieved by the Comelec. Let us assume it did, so we had 450 voters participating in the mock polls.
From Kontra Daya field reports, a total of 11 ballots were rejected for various reasons by the PCOS machines – 5 in Quezon City, 3 in Davao City, 2 in Taguig City, and 1 in Baguio City. The rejected ballots accounted for 2.44 percent of the total number of voters (450) in the mock polls.
This is a pretty large proportion. Assuming that the same proportion of ballots will be rejected by the PCOS machines on May 10, it will translate to about 883,524 rejected ballots (2.44 percent of the expected 36.21 million voters on May 10).
This figure, in turn, is based on the 75 percent voter turnout during the 2007 midterm elections. The historical voter turnout in the Philippines is pegged at 75-77 percent. Meanwhile, as of March 2009, the Comelec reported that there are 48.28 million registered voters.)
Now, recent surveys show that Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen. Noynoy Aquino and Nacionalista Party (NP) bet Sen. Manny Villar are neck-and-neck in the presidential race. In the latest Pulse Asia survey (January 22-26), Aquino and Villar are actually already statistically tied (Aquino chosen by 37 percent of the respondents; Villar, 35 percent).
If we apply these percentages to the expected number of ballots on May 10 (36.21 million), Aquino will get 13,397,700 votes while Villar will receive 12,673,500 votes or a very slim winning margin for Aquino of only about 724,200 votes.
But this margin is easily wiped out by the expected number of rejected ballots of about 884,970 based on the 2.44 percent rejection rate in today’s mock polls.
A new president may not be declared and the whole electoral process, which is supposed to become more credible through automation, may be seriously undermined.
The Comelec, of course, may argue that the mock polls was held precisely to identify such problems so that they may be addressed for the actual conduct of the automated polls on May 10.
I hope I can say that let us just keep our fingers tightly crossed.
But not with this Comelec, and with Malacañang’s fraud machinery intact.
Our best defense is to remain vigilant.