Just as the automated count has less than 10 percent of the total votes to count, various public accusations of election cheating has cropped and a renewed wave of doubts assails the automated election system (AES) used in the recent May 10, 2010 elections.
To be sure, the elections have been dubbed as a success, despite the myriad of problems and anxieties that occurred. Its presidential result of the victory for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is generally accepted, with the understandable exception of the runner-up, former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada and the not-so-understandable “gang of three.”
The constant theme in the latest spate of attacks on the AES is the penetration of the system, either from outside (the Koala kid testimony) to high-level insider shenanigans (Malacañang-DILG-Comelec conspiracy). The end-result, according to the stories, is the compromise of the AES, allowing vote manipulation, and therefore favoring certain national and local candidates.
That such a situation of unbridled accusations against AES can occur and–to a certain extent–believed is due to several factors. There is of course the factor of the bitterly-fought contests at all levels, where candidates spent so much money and even undertook election violence. There is also the untried and new AES which took all of us into uncharted waters. Again, there is the constant factor of ill-motivated attacks by vested interest groups who were frustrated in their schemes by the AES. An additional factor is the excruciatingly slow reporting of the last 10 percent of the votes–fanning cheating anxieties reminiscent of the manual system.
The Comelec has its share of blame in its various decisions weakening the system’s security and lessening the bar for potential penetration, its wrong turns and zigzags that delayed or made for a hasty implementation, and its problems of transparency in the implementation stage. These left it open and vulnerable to the critics’ attacks.
Of course, at the end of the day, the success of the AES wiped clean the slate. However, it did not diminish the accumulated dirt. Comelec had to do more: start early preparations, be unconditionally transparent, and exert all efforts to ensure the security and credibility of the 2013 elections AES system. The question of cheating in the AES should be firmly put to rest.
Otherwise–as in the present situation–it will not silence the critics. Worse, the latter may proved to be correct.