“Doubt has been cast on the credibility of the fully automated voting that was conducted, and calls are being made for the implementation of a hybrid system and for greater transparency in the vote counting process”
In my column last week, I wrote about the first online press conference held by the group U.S. Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) where they presented the analyses of two experts probing “possible irregularities” in the May 2022 Philippine national elections.
The group held another live event yesterday titled “Sanctity of the Ballot,” Part 2 of their Electoral Fraud Series of conferences.
The analysts at the first USFGG event were big data analyst and engineer Phil Daily, whose presentation I reported on last week.
Here’s the report of forensic election fraud expert and University of Michigan political science and statistics professor Walter R. Mebane Jr.
Mebane has written many papers on election forensics and political fraud in election results all over the world, and is “familiar with Philippine politics, having analyzed the 2016 Philippine elections,” according to the USFGG.
In his paper “eforensics Analysis of the Philippines 2022 Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections,” Mebane used clustered precinct data to “estimate e-forensics frauds to measure the magnitude of malevolent distortions of electors’ intentions—frauds” in the elections.
Based on transparency server vote count and Project of Precincts eligible voter data on the Comelec website, he found that the data show “2,079 precincts and about 416,109 votes for [Ferdinand] Marcos [Jr.] are produced by malevolent distortions” and “bad acts – more by stealing votes from other candidates” while 25,144 precincts and some 1.71 million votes for Marcos “are produced by a mix of bad acts that manufacture votes and of strategic elector behavior that shifts votes between candidates.”
Mebane found similar patterns in the votes for Sara Duterte.
He pointed out that “suspicions abound about the election,” given the prevalence of vote-buying, political patronage, intimidation, and even violence among “influential families who struggle for power,” as well as “’online disinformation campaigns flooding social media with false stories portraying [Ferdinand] Marcos Sr.’s rule as a golden era’” (quoting Ratcliffe, 2022).
Mebane also showed estimates that “many precincts have eforensics frauds” and indications of “lost votes.”
He further noted that the 2022 presidential election has “4.4 times more precincts with extreme frauds than does the 2016 election” and “26.1 times more precincts with incremental frauds.”
Extreme frauds, he wrote, “are larger.” In this year’s elections, the proportion of extreme fraud varies from province to province.
Whether these factors and the others discussed in Mebane’s paper could have influenced the results to tip in favor of the second placer is unclear, given the “wide margin” of 31 million votes attributed to Marcos Jr.
However, it is precisely this turnout of 31 million that many Filipinos find difficult to believe. It is the largest in the nation’s history and overturns historical trends for voter turnout.
Doubt has been cast on the credibility of the fully automated voting that was conducted, and calls are being made for the implementation of a hybrid system and for greater transparency in the vote counting process.
Review of SD cards
In Part 2 of USFGG’s “Electoral Fraud Series” of live conferences yesterday and titled “Sanctity of the Ballot,” Frank Ysaac, former president of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, pointed out that less than two hours after the closing of polling places at 7:00 p.m. on election day, the Comelec server was issuing election returns “in record millions.”
He said the batch ERs showed “incredible patterns of doubtful voting ratios from the President to the Vice President,” and that this “never happened during the 2016 election.”
He pointed to possible tampering of the secure digital cards being used in the voting machines. Ysaac said analysis shows a pattern wherein some SD cards were “apparently reading shaded ballots of one candidate but counting them as ballots of another candidate.”
He said any programmer can write this program into the SD cards in “less than a minute.” This could be noted as well in the “constant voting ratio” of 68/32.
What should have happened, Ysaac said, is that the automated election system process should have had a “review of each SD card before, during, and after election to check whether each one was the same SD card presented to the concerned parties,” to ensure that the cards were not tampered with.
Ysaac added that without a review of the cards, “we can conclude the election was not credible and therefore the result is not acceptable… If IT experts find SD cards were tampered with, then the election can be considered a failure.”
At the same conference yesterday, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) chairman Gus Lagman said the automated election process was “not transparent to voters” because no one witnessed the counting of votes, only Comelec and Smartmatic (“a foreign company”) understand the process, and “insiders can easily manipulate the results if they wanted to.”
Lagman advocates a hybrid system where manual vote counting is done at the precinct level for accuracy. The results obtained by manual counting will be transmitted electronically using any laptop (this also obviates ballot box snatching), and any software used will be open source “which can be reviewed by anyone interested.” This system, he said, will also save the government millions.
In addition, Gen. Eliseo Rio, former Department of Information and Communications Technology undersecretary for operations, showed statistical and mathematical analyses pointing to the “statistically improbable” numbers as well as distorted ratios that he said tend to show that “the results were programmed to jibe with the poll surveys.”
He said his presentation questions the credibility of the election results due to the “lack of transparency in this election, from the printing of ballots and configuring SD cards without any witnesses,” among other issues he raised.
“To resolve all of this,” he said, “we need a citizen-initiated random manual audit of ballots and IT audit of SD cards in a transparent and credible manner.”
Supporters of the incoming administration will of course say that the rest of the Filipinos should just accept the results as presented and move on. However, while doubts about this election’s credibility linger and remain unresolved, legitimacy will always be an issue.
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