The accuracy of the vote counting machines used in the May 2019 polls was a record high 99.9953 percent, the random manual audit (RMA) conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its independent partners showed.
The finding was announced by the RMA panel after 22 days of manual counting of ballots in 711 clustered precincts by the public school teachers under the supervision of the Comelec, PICPA (Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants), Lente and the Philippine Statistics Authority from May 15 to June 5.
The 99.9953 percent result was the highest since the country implemented the automated election system in 2010.
The RMA results in 2010, 2013 and 2016 showed the counting machines’ accuracy reaching 99.580 %, 99.9747 % and 99.9027 %, respectively.
The high level of accuracy, as far as PICPA and Lente officials are concerned, was enough to dismiss claims that the receipts generated by VCMs do not reflect the vote on the ballot and as such, are fraud free.
“Puede naman nating sabihin na ganun (fraud-free) [ang VCMs] based sa ginawa naming RMA sa precinct level. There are minor variances noted and some of it will be further investigated, but as the results have shown, the level of accuracy is already high,” Tomasa Lipana of PICPA said.
“Ang na-address rito sa RMA ay ‘yung issue na iba ang nasa balota sa lumalabas sa resibo galing sa VCM…na mali ang binibilang ng makina. Wala kaming nakita roon sa 711 clustered precincts, sa mga balota na inaudit ng teachers na supervised namin, na iba ‘yung lumabas na resulta [kumpara sa balota],” lawyer Rona Caritos of Lente added.
There are initially 715 clustered precincts selected for the RMA process but four of them were eventually excluded due to presence of excess ballots, missing ballots, torn ballots and ballots from another clustered precincts placed inside the ballot boxes of precincts selected in the RMA process.
Good enough sample
But for Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Guia who heads the RMA panel, the 711 clustered precincts were good enough sample to gauge the VCM’s accuracy, and the RMA results reflected the VCM’s integrity.
“This [RMA] process measures the reading of the marks of the ballots of the VCM at the precinct level. You saw the result. You make your judgment on the results,” Guia added.
President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that the Comelec should stop using the Smartmatic VCMs and look for one that is "fraud free" since there were over 961 VCMs and over 1,600 Secure Digital (SD) Cards which malfunctioned during election day despite passing previous tests.
These VCMs and SD cards, however, were all replaced by the Comelec, although replacing them took some time which delayed the voting process in some areas.
Guia added that the audit was credible even if the process did not include party-list votes.
“The audit is not for every position, so it does not really matter what position we use for the RMA process," Guia said.
"Ang marks from the chosen positions are already representative of the entire ballot, including party-list [race]. Ganun ang naging pagpili para medyo maging manageable ang audit process,” he added.
“Ang proseso namin ay tulad ng manual election wherein you have a huge tally board and the names of the candidates. This has been the framework noong 2013 mid-term election,” Guia said.
He added that including the party-list race in the RMA, with 132 candidates, would require more days and more teams, and such, delay the release of RMA results.
“Ine-expect nga natin for this year, 60 days, one team, for one precinct. Pero ‘yung iba, tatlong araw [ang kinailangan para matapos ang RMA sa isang presinto]. Kung idadagdag ang party-list system, baka mas matagal tayo matapos,” Guia said.
Bayan Muna party-list earlier questioned the non-inclusion of party-list race in RMA process, saying that this move violates Comelec Resolution No. 10525 which states that all members of the House of Representatives, both district and party-list solons, must be included in the audit. —NB/LDF, GMA News