Election watchdog Kontra Daya on Thursday claimed there was fraud in the 2022 national and local elections.
The group made the statement at the online launch of the interim report of the International Observers Mission for the 2022 Philippine elections, led by International Coalition for Human Rights.
“From our end, we can say, if we are asked: Was there election fraud? Yes, there was election fraud,” Malou Jarabe of Kontra Daya said during her presentation.
In explaining their claim, Jarabe mentioned the lack of transparency in the automated election system (AES); lack of expert oversight and measures to ensure integrity; and the problem in the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) attitude, "one that is not accountable and would downplay all complaints held against them."
Apart from these, Kontra Daya said there was massive, systematic and sustained disinformation favoring presumptive President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to deceive the electorate; rampant and unchecked vote-buying; and intimidation and red-tagging or terrorist-labelling and other forms of harassment against the opposition.
In her presentation, Jarabe also shared more than 9,000 reports involving machine errors, illegal campaign activities, vote-buying, and red-tagging.
Of over 9,000 reports, Jarabe said 2,927 are verified reports which means there are pieces of evidence supporting the claims. Of this number, 2,683 are election-related reports, 224 are campaign reports, and 1,318 are vote-counting machine (VCM) errors.
She said machine failures make up a significant percentage of election incidents. These include machines rejecting the ballots, failing to issue receipts, breaking down completely resulting in long lines and significant delays in voting.
With these reports, Jarabe said this “proves that despite the statements made by the Comelec, to the contrary the 2022 elections were plagued with incidents of fraud and disinformation.”
Kontra Daya likewise maintained that the massive amount of reports serves to prove the failure of the automated election system in guarding the sanctity of the ballot.
They noted the propriety of source code of the VCMs and the lack of genuine source code review process “cast more doubt on the accuracy of the election results as software and hardware of the machines are both owned and protected by Smartmatic.”
“It is difficult to completely vet the process by which the machines count the votes. Right from the start, Kontra Daya remained critical of the conduct of the automated elections in the country for its lack of transparency and accountability,” Jarabe said.
The election watchdog urged the poll body to replace the current AES with one that is transparent, open source and locally-made.
“An election system that maximizes local talent and allows greater public scrutiny will allow others to be confident that their votes are correctly cast and counted,” Jarabe said.
Further, Kontra Daya said the public can hold the Comelec, Smartmatic, and logistics-provider F2 accountable for the “widespread failure of elections”; continue the fight against disinformation, historical denialism and distortion; find creative means to raise political awareness of the hundreds of thousands who were mobilized, develop these new democratic forces, and continue forming movement for civil liberties, human rights, social justice, economic upliftment of the poor and marginalized and national sovereignty.
Not free and fair
The International Coalition for Human Rights concluded that the 2022 National and Local Elections did not meet the criteria for free and fair polls.
"So, in conclusion regarding all these prevailing conditions, we can affirm that the election of May 9th this year did not meet the standards of free and fair,” International Observer Mission Commissioner and Belgian Parliamentarian Séverine De Laveleye said.
Laveleye said the recently-concluded polls were “marred by widespread irregularity and violence which undermined the democratic process.”
“The elections took place in the most repressive atmosphere seen since the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Duterte government has orchestrated state terror, marshalling the entire machinery of the state, including the judiciary, the military and police, the departments of education, social welfare and local government, in a war on dissent which continued through the entirety of the election campaign,” she said.
The IOM observers and local partners such as Kontra Daya observed political killings, shootings, abductions, death threats, political arrest, harassment, large-scale red-tagging, media manipulation, fake news, and harassment of journalists by the Marcos campaign.
Further, Laveleye noted that there are more than 1,800 VCMs that malfunctioned on the election day, as well as the reported vote-buying activities on election day.
Apart from the election-related violence, the human rights group representative also highlighted the common practice of red-tagging during the campaign period which was perpetrated “largely” by the state, military, and other candidates to “vilify the opposition candidates.”
"There is an extreme form of disinformation which was used against progressive candidates and the main opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo," she said, citing the claims that Communist Party of the Philippine founding chairman Jose Maria Sison was her campaign adviser.
Apart from Robredo, the human rights group noted the campaign paraphernalia which “demonized” progressive candidates and disinformation and fake news about the Makabayan Bloc candidates and party-lists, particularly their “disqualification” from the 2022 polls.
“IOM Central Luzon mission identified the spread of fake news through online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok as a major threat to the integrity of Philippine democracy and electoral process,” Laveleye said.
She also highlighted the proliferation of false information about Marcos Jr. and his family, including the tagging of the martial law era as the “Golden Age” as well as the facts about their wealth.
Lastly, the human rights advocate said Filipino voters were denied access to reliable information access, to the voting places without intimidation, and a credible vote counting system.
According to Mark Salazar's report on "24 Oras," the Comelec has put in place measures to curb vote buying in the elections.
"The Comelec together with the other agencies had laid down Task Force Kontra Bigay specifically to address this. Massive na rin po yung aming information campaign on this," acting Comelec spokesman Rex Laudiangco said.
"Please help us. We really are determined to go after these people. Maari pong naibigay n'o sa amin ang report pero ultimately and ebidensya na gagamitin sa prosecution at eventually conviction ay nasa inyo," he added.
The Comelec official also said that out of the 106,174 machines distributed in clustered precincts, only around 900 or 0.8 percent of the total malfunctioned, which were immediately pulled out for repair or replacement.
No irregularities, says Palace
Responding to the IOM’s report, Malacañang insisted that there were no irregularities in the recently-concluded elections, as pronounced by President Rodrigo Duterte in his Talk to the People last May 11.
Despite this, acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said they will leave it to the Comelec to respond to IOM’s observation that the May 9 elections did not meet the criteria of free and fair polls.
“Let us respect the outcome of the election and give chance to the winning candidates to fulfill their campaign platform,” Andanar said.
“However, to dispel doubts of some quarters such as the Philippine Election 2022 International Observer Mission, which has been quoted as saying “the May 9 election did not meet the standard of free and fair,” we leave the matter to the Comelec,” he added.—LDF, GMA News