Missing, discrepant information mark May 14 elections, says HALAL report

Did we have honest, orderly and peaceful elections last May 14, 2007? There’s no formal answer from the COMELEC but a brazen assessment by the Philippine National Police, which claimed that the elections were generally peaceful amidst elections-related killings that amounted to over 100.

Despite countless reports of irregularities in the elections, it is either impossible or very excruciatingly expensive to pursue a legal case. Politics gets in the way.

But how about statistical findings based on reports by government as well as the citizens? Can they be used instead as a way to put the message across to the policy-makers and policy implementers?

Halalang Marangal (HALAL), an election watchdog established this year (or last?), has come up with a latest report based on its audit of the May 14 election results from the precinct level to the national level. Citizen volunteers as well as civil society groups pitched in their energies to make the study and report possible.

The purpose of the audit was to detect anomalies in the conduct of the elections based on the Certificates of Canvass (COVs), which consolidate the precinct-level results into the municipal level, and Statements of Votes (SOVs), which detail election results at the precinct level.

Eight indicators were used by the audit, namely:

  1. Incompletely filled up election reports. The number of voters who actually voted and the number of precincts canvassed are statistical padlocks. Accepting or submitting reports with these information missing is like accepting or submitting ballot boxes with missing padlocks.
  2. Voter turnout (number of voters who actually voted divided by the number of registered voters). Very high turnouts (>90%) are abnormal and probably anomalous.
  3. Ballot fill up rate (total votes for senator divided by the number of voters who actually voted). A ballot fill up rate higher than 12 is statistically impossible.
  4. Percentage share of the number of voters who voted (votes for a candidate divided by the number of voters who actually voted). Anything higher than 100% is statistically impossible.
  5. Discrepancy in rankings. When Comelec and Namfrel figures are compared, a big change in ranking within the same province is indicative of irregularity or unintentional error in the canvassing.
  6. Discrepancy in the percentage share of votes (number of votes for a candidate divided by the total votes for senator). The Comelec and Namfrel values should be close to each other.
  7. Discrepancy between the average votes per precinct (votes obtained divided by the number of ERs canvassed) in the Comelec tally and the Namfrel AVP.
  8. The Comelec votes are lower than their Namfrel counterpart though the Comelec tally is already complete. This statistically impossible situation, which was quite common in the 2007 elections especially among the minor candidates, may be due to vote-shaving.

Based on these indicators, the report lists 10 findings, to wit:

  1. The Comelec showed laxity bordering on negligence/incompetence in accepting COCs/SOVs with essential information missing — the number of precincts tallied and/or the number of voters who actually voted.
  2. Statistical and circumstantial evidence indicated that the Maguindanao results were fraudulent.
  3. Maguindanao and Sharif Kabunsuan showed abnormally high voter turnouts.
  4. Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Paranaque and six towns of Maguindanao showed statistically impossible (>12) ballot fill-up rates.
  5. Significant differences in rankings between Comelec and Namfrel results suggest anomalous results in twelve provinces and cities.
  6. Compared to 2004, vote discrepancies in 2007 between Comelec and Namfrel were lower in 25 provinces/cities including some ARMM provinces, but higher in 73 provinces/cities.
  7. The ten biggest net gainers from the discrepancies were Recto, Villar, Zubiri, Escudero, Pangilinan, Pichay, Defensor, Sotto, Arroyo, and Singson, in that order.
  8. The biggest loser was Kiram, who lost votes even in his home region ARMM as well as in other provinces where his TU partymates gained votes.
  9. The votes for minor candidates (Kapatiran, KBL and Cantal) were shaved nationwide.
  10. Among the major candidates, the other big losers from the discrepancies were Aquino, Montano, Osmena and Coseteng.

Government may not heed this report by HALAL. But the citizenry, civil society groups, and their international communities be enlightened. Our collective education on the realities lead to collective responses, a material force to bring about concrete changes in the way policies are crafted and implemented.

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