The morning after
As from a drunken stupor, many woke up stunned, blinking through the haze trying to make out if the figures on the TV screen were real or just a fever in the brain. The morning after the elections showed opposition candidates completely totaled after a seven-hour blackout the night before. The delay was explained away by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as just a technical glitch, a case of “FTP bottlenecks” in “data queuing.”
Not being an IT expert, I took this as adequate explanation for why the server for media and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting broke down. But Carlo Florendo, of the University of the Philippines Department of Computer Science, disputes this: “There can be no bottleneck if the systems are designed properly since what’s being transmitted are simply numbers and identification codes. Even if there are a billion of these messages, the amount of network traffic this should generate should not be more than the size of the last 2 or 3 episodes of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series.”
Likewise, it is asked: “Why is it that only the server for media and watchdog groups broke down, while that of the Comelec continued to receive results?”
In the past, the results from the 86,769 precincts went directly to the Comelec, the media, citizen watchers and interested parties. This time, a mysterious “queue server” was interposed between the precinct results and these entities, suspiciously resulting in a transparency server outage, but only for media and citizen watchers.
It is in this “Q” server that an IT expert locates the fraud: “The interface programs were put to work. What happened was digital dagdag bawas using an immediate program between the transparency server and the servers of the election watchdogs and media. Madali lang po gawin yun. But you need to wait for the true results before you can do the digital dagdag bawas. That’s what they did. They waited first for the true results before they manipulated the numbers that will be transmitted.”
Is this the reason why citizen watchers like the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections had to be out of the picture? Because the consolidated reports would not match the precinct-level data?
Reports on the ground seem to match this picture of deliberate electronic fraud.
For one, many complained that their verification receipts showed names different from those they voted for.
Someone voted for Neri Colmenares, but his receipt showed a different name. Another voter reported: “Guy in front of me didn’t vote for Bato dela Rosa but ballot receipt showed that he voted for him.” Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa, particularly, kept coming up in the receipts, even if their names were not shaded.
The supposed “overvoting” may be related to this. Actress Solenn Heussaff said: “My friend had 2 additional names on her receipt that she didn’t vote for.”
The Comelec dismisses these irregularities as mere glitches that are statistically insignificant, anyway. You would think that after four automated elections, the Comelec would have been more prepared for such technical problems. Yet suspiciously, there were more malfunctioning vote-counting machines and corrupted secure digital cards in this election than in previous ones.
In the movie “Sophie’s Choice,” Stingo walks away dazed at the suicide of his friends Sophie, a Holocaust survivor, and the crazed Nathan. He walks along Brooklyn bridge baffled and anguished, trying to make sense of what had happened. The tailend of his rumination had him saying, “This is not Judgment Day … only morning.”
No, the election was not Judgment Day. And the morning after was just that — waking us up to the blurry and murky evil shrouding this land, this time seemingly preprogrammed into algorithms coming out of a humless machine.
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Melba Padilla Maggay, Ph.D., is president of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture.
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