Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Long Count

Election Day was 38 days ago and the counting continues. If the votes in Maguindanao are counted, Miguel Zubiri, an administration candidate will win the 12th and final slot in the Senate. If the votes are not counted as per the Supreme Court petition of Aquilino Pimentel III, then Zubiri loses.

In most countries, this would be an open and shut case. Why even burden the Supreme Court with a seemingly simple question? Votes need to be counted because the foundation of a democratic system rests in the sanctity of every person’s vote that is expressed in every ballot.

Unless voting did not take place and election returns were fraudulently mass produced. This consideration is at the heart of the delay in the long count. Obviously, administration allies are frantically finding ways to justify counting what appears to be corrupted returns. Why won’t they for a change find some courage and proclaim Zubiri and dare the Filipinos to unleash a revolution?

Because this is how we deal with problems in our country. We don’t deal with them if we can and we resort to the long count. After 21 years, it’s only now that we’re slowly acquitting the Marcos cronies one by one. We still don’t know who killed Ninoy Aquino. We’re still waiting for the Erap Estrada verdict and Trillanes may already be our President by the time the prosecution rests its case.

Feudalism and oligarchies rely on the long count to remain in power. So long as those leading the dramatis personae are unchanged, waiting is just fine. Time is ever on their side.

This is why the conclusion to this little imbroglio is not that important. No big change is coming. You would have thought that since Pimentel’s father, Aquilino II was a victim to a similar scheme years ago he would have used all his powers as a leading figure in the Senate to forestall any possibility on such a fraud from being perpetrated upon his own son.

Time is on their side.


r.g. lacsamana said...

The solution is simple: Why not modernize voting in ways that would eliminate that "long count" and the possibility of fraud?

I have commented before that India, with a population of over a billion, has a system where the winners in elections are known after one or two days. Why can't we do it back home, with a population 1/12 that of India?

Until we change our antiquated methods, the Philippines will be faced with the same problem we get confronted every two to four years.
Where, oh where, is the collective will of our leaders?

It appears that while our SE Asian neighbors keep advancing, we continue to lag and lag. Not just in elections, but in the way the system of justice works, as Dr. Bautista illustrates in this piece.

It's not only frustrating, but has reached a point where those with the right ideas get shunted aside. Yes, we keep talking and talking about what's wrong, but nothing that's right ever gets done.

jonphil said...

Da filipins, and its politicians, is that crude. These greedy politicians are experts only on cheating with manual-counting elections.

Don’t be amazed why they forestall any move to have our elections automated. And we allow them.

Gregory said...

As to modernizing the vote count, perhaps some operational analysis - similar to what manufacturing and service businesses do -be undertaken to see where the bottleneck happens (and where fraud is perpetuated) - and then suggest changes.

Also, our elections are very expensive. Ballot boxes made of steel with all those padlocks. When you see elections in other countries, you have either simple boxes or a machine. If machines are too expensive or unreliable still (with respect to technology), then maybe simple boxes will do.

I know - -people may be saying - how naive can I get - having simple boxes without padlocks.

But I don't expect nationwide roll-out of changes to be done in 2010. Sometimes, we get bogged down with solutions because we want the solutions to apply to the entire country.

What we can do in 2010 is apply the desired changes to PILOT areas first. It can be done in areas which for the past 3 elections, have generally been violent free and generally honest. And we can do it to a selected no. of areas.

For example, we can do a pilot in Baguio, certain districts of Quezon City and Manila. We could also try it in certain areas in Cebu. Now, I am not an expert in identifying these areas - perhaps those with data can identify the pilot projects based on specific criteria with which we have data.

Some links:

Ballot Boxes:

Election fraud:

Voting machines:

Electronic voting:


We never seem to learn from mistakes and controversies. Now, unless we do something, that 12th spot in senatorial elections will always be controversial due to many factors: credibility of the vote, sour losers, etc.

There will always be Supreme Court/COMELEC cases for the 11th/12th spot. This won't go away in the 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, 2022, 2025, etc. elections - unless we do something.

I recall:

1987 (Laban vs GAD or Grand Alliance for Democracy) - controversy for 23rd/24th spot involving Enrile, Sanchez, and Defensor.

1992 - I don't recall controversy here because people were transfixed with presidential politics. Plus, the 24th slot was up for grabs between Butz Aquino, Alran Bengzon, and Carlos Padilla (all in the same political spectrum).


1995 - The in-famous Dagdag Bawas episode.

Enrile/Coseteng vs. Mitra, Biazon, and Pimentel for final slots



Controversy with Oreta and Pagdanganan and Ruben Torres for final slot.


2001 Elections:

Recto/Honasan/Enrile/Santiago controversy


2004 Elections:

I was no longer in the Philippines then. Not sure if there were issues between Biazon and Barbers. Probably there was considering their very close vote.


2007 Elections:

Pimentel vs. Zubiri


Wow - -20 years after the 1st legislature elections under the 1987 Constitution and we still have not gotten our acts together.


Let's try to break the complexity. Does someone have information on how the process works (e.g., a chart of the process). Then maybe we can start the process of breaking down the complexity.

Also, how much does 1 ballot box cost? How much do we spend in terms of election materials each election time (ballot box, tally sheets, ballots, etc. less salaries of election personnel?

Gregory said...

I meant Sore losers, not sour losers. :-)

Gregory said...

Guys - -we've expressed our frustrations but we need to break the complexity and think of solutions. I think if we work together with election experts, we can come up with solutions.

But first, we must understand the current process and then start analysis. We know what needs to be done in general, but until and unless we figure out the complexity and break it down into a clearer understanding, we will get overwhelmed with the problem (and because of this overwhelming, we will likely just give up).

That's why I see blogs as opportunities not just to raise the issues but to actually (1) understand the problem, its roots and context, and what were the solutions tried in the past if any. That way, we can have a clearer picture.

Let all the brains work together. I don't know what sort of profile of readers Martin's blog has - -but I guess we can safely assume that all our brains put together will somehow mean something (and I am not being arrogant here - -just stating a fact that the more brains put together -the more we can achieve).

And perhaps Martin can invite "Guest bloggers" to explain and break down the complexities of some issues.

What I can see happening is that we move from one issue to the next. And that's okay because what we have is an "awareness" exercise.

But for this site to transcend the awareness stage and become a forum for solutions, there has to be a systematic approach to this. Considering that Martin is serious about politics, maybe he can bring together the brains that can help break down the complexity of certain issues, and then through dialog within this blog, we can come up with some innovative solutions that perhaps those in the legislature will take notice because of the people involved in the endeavor and the number of readers in this blog - - - -then his blog can be a means of advocacy for reforms based on specific proposals. A think-tank in a sense.

If Martin needs donations for this type of blog, maybe we can chip in something. Anyway, just a thought.

r.g. lacsamana said...

Gregory, this thing does not need to be complex. Assuming the government is prepared to spend the money needed, we can get consultants from India or the United States to install the kind of system they have.

We want this system to be installed nationwide, and it ought to be fast, efficient, and fraud-proof as much as possible. Doing things piece-meal will not work.

It's hard to accept the fact that 38 days after the election, we are still counting. That makes the electoral process vulnerable to all kinds of cheating, as has been happening regularly.

I don't want to push an alarm bell, but there is no excuse to continue using the antiquated method we have. It's time to bury it.

Gregory said...

I don't think it's as simple as political will. We need to understand the logistics, the cost, the cultural context, etc. It's not as simple as transplanting a machine and then suddenly, everything's working.

Of course, the issue isn't simply speeding up the process. It also involves ability of people (voters) to understand how to use a new system, getting people to buy into the new process of counting votes, assuring candidates and supporters of transparency of system, etc.

That's what I meant by complex. it's not a one size fit all system.

It's not also wise to implement things immediately nationwide. There must be a pilot. To test the system and to tweak it. Plus, there are degrees of adoption ability here. Depending on the system proposed, there will be varying degrees of aptitude on adoption. To bring home the point, when the ATM was new, banks didn't suddenly put the ATM all over the Philippines, it pilot tested it first in certain areas. Education takes time, money, and resources. Plus, the investment in the technology itself.

I agree with you on the urgency. We're on the same page there.

For discussion's sake, what system were you thinking of. What machines are you thinking of.

Gregory said...

Another thing to consider RG:

India has a different political system. Elections are basically local unlike us where our results need to be tallied nationally for certain candidates.

Using the Philippines to describe their system, they elect congressmen (local elections) and then the party or coalition with the most congressmen elect the President (in their case, they have their representatives, and the party with the most representatives elect the PM)

In our case, we need to get the votes of each province, add them all up -to determine who is President, VP, Senator. So we don't stop counting at the local level. The votes go to the next level (a national tally).

India does not have a national tally.

In the US, a national tally isn't done too. It is not the direct vote but the electoral vote that matters. Thus, as soon as the local result is know (e.g., Bush wins Florida), then, Bush gets electoral votes of Florida. Senators on the other hand are elected by State. So again, no national tally.

Now, I am not saying that their machines, etc. won't work here. What I am saying is, it is not a simple transplant of the system because in our case, we have a national, direct vote tally.


"Post elections

After the election day, the EVM’s are stored in a strong room under heavy security. After the different phases of the elections are complete, a day is set to count the votes. The votes are tallied and typically, the verdict is known within a few hours. The candidate who has mustered the most votes is declared the winner of the constituency.

The party or coalition that has won the most seats is invited by the President to form the new government. The coalition or party must prove its majority in the floor of the house (Lok Sabha) in a vote of confidence by obtaining a simple majority (minimum 50%) of the votes in the House."


Here's a complete description of the India voting process:

Gregory said...

From the above link:


"The Election commission takes a decision to ask for a re-election if the
machines are found to be tempered with. Or if the count of signatures or thumb
impressions (yes, India's illiterate also take part in the democracy) on the
voter register do not tally with the number of votes registered by the Voting
Machine. In this election, about a 100 polling booths, (I think) were asked to
conduct the election again. This number is small, for the size of Indian


In case of disputes, the machines are preserved for the courts to decide upon,
other machines are used for next election after reseting the memory."


This goes to show RG that mere machine implementation might not work here. There might be a cultural issue that still remains. Maybe (and I am not sure)- - losers in India perhaps complain less about their loss - -or maybe cheating is less rampant/violent. I am not sure. I don't have the data and facts.

But assuming you have machines here and then you have all the usual complaints from candidates, then it's still gonna be the same story.

Now - again - -I am not saying implementing a machine solution is not part of the solution. Likely, it is. But the problem has many dimensions to it. And all of this must be studied carefully.

Lastly, when you say - hire consultants, etc. and implement. I agree - -we need the experts. But what will experts do - -they will figure out the problem and suggest solutions. Why do we need experts? Because the problem is not an easy one. If it was easy - -then anyone could fix it.

But we can understand too the problem if the complexity is broken down. And who better to break the complexity down but the experts. That is why it would be good if Martin, using his new-found political clout/fame, to invite experts he met on the way to enlighten us on the different dimensions of the problem, the solutions tried in the past that failed, the likely solutions that might work, and the challenges faced and how to overcome them.

Gregory said...

I haven't read these yet but here are reports worth checking out:

Funded by USAID:


r.g. lacsamana said...

Thanks, Gregory, for your edifying comments.

My point here simply is to start modernizing the system, any thing that would improve what we have and make the process tamper-proof. I have not seen any attempt from those with the power and authority to do this.

Even with the electoral system here in the U.S., every vote in every town, city, or state still has to be counted. And those counts are available within a few hours after the polls close, so we know next day most of the winners and losers, either locally or nationally. That's in stark contrast to what we are seeing home, which has not changed in sometime.

Gregory said...

Here's another good resource:

Comparative studies can be made between Phils. and other countries.


Philippines: Cheating in Elections (2000)

Fact sheet by Ding Tanjuactco first published in ACE 1 in 2000

1) Registration of non-qualified voters

This can also be called packing of voters' lists. To ensure that a candidate will have captive votes, he will haul in voters even if these voters do not meet the citizenship, age or residence requirements. Where the registration period has already lapsed, the same objective can be achieved through the manipulation of inclusion proceedings in court.

2) Disenfranchisement of qualified voters

This is resorted to where a candidate believes that a voter or group of voters will vote for his opponent(s). It can come in the form of discouraging them from registering at all or, if they managed to register, to exclude them from the voters' lists through an ostensibly legal exclusion proceedings in court.

Election Day

1) Vote buying

a) with or with out chained balloting

Some candidates will take the word of the bought voter. However, if he wants to be sure that he gets his money's worth, the candidate will employ chained balloting or "lansadera". At the start of the day, all the potential "buyees" are gathered in one place and, as soon as the polls are opened, one of them is sent to the polling place. After the usual identification process, he obtains a ballot from the poll clerk, which he takes with him to the polling booth.

At this point, everything is still fine and dandy. But what he does with the ballot becomes the heart of the illegal scheme. Instead of filling up the ballot, he puts it in his pocket and casts something that looks like a ballot into the ballot box. Thereafter, he presents the blank official ballot to the buyer who pays him an amount for his effort. The buyer then fills up the ballot himself and hands the same to the second voter. The second voter goes to the polling place and obtains a blank official ballot but does not drop this in the ballot box. Instead, he drops the ballot which was filled up by the buyer. He then turns over the blank official ballot to the buyer and the cycle is repeated.

b) with or without identifying marks

Another way of ensuring that the bought voter will live up to his end of the bargain is to specify how that voter will fill up his ballot. The voter can be required to write the candidate's name in a peculiar way, e.g. first name last, with nickname, slightly misspelled etc.

2) Negative vote buying

This is the simplest way of buying votes. Where a candidate is certain that a voter will not vote for him, he can pay him not to vote. Efficiency can be achieved by herding the voters together and getting them on a bus that will take them away for the rest of the day. A lot of times, the voters will be compelled to have their index fingers smeared with indelible ink.

3) Waylaying of voters

a) through fraud or stealth

This has the same objective as negative vote buying except that no financial benefit accrues to the voter. With the connivance of the Board of Election Inspectors, the voter's name is deleted from the list. This results in confusion resulting in the voter being disenfranchised.

b) through intimidation or downright terrorism

Disenfranchisement is also attained except that the means used are less subtle.

4) Stuffing of Ballot box with fake Ballots

The ballots stuffed may or may not be faithful reproductions of the genuine ones. In either case, the fake ballots will have the name(s) of the candidate(s) written in the appropriate place(s).

5) Ballots written by only one person or group of persons

This is usually employed in highly controlled or highly terrorized areas. The legitimate voters are driven away and the henchmen of the warlord are left to do the voting for them.

6) Voting by persons other than the registered voters

Toward the end of the voting period, the list is scanned for those who have not voted yet. Ballots are issued to persons other than the registered voters and are filled up by the co-conspirators of the cheating candidate. As expected, it is his name that will appear in the appropriate place.

7) Misreading of Ballots

This is a rather simple maneuver. All it requires is the blind albeit cooperative eyes of the Board of Election Inspectors and the complacency of the watchers.

8) Ballot/Ballot Box snatching or destruction

Where a candidate is losing in a precinct, the snatching of the ballot box or its destruction (together with its contents) will deny his opponent the lead that the latter could have enjoyed in that precinct.

9) Ballot/Ballot box substitution

This is a refinement of snatching or destruction. Not only does it deny the opponent of the votes he could have gotten - it also credits the cheating candidate, as many votes as there are substituted ballots.

10) Falsification (tampering) of Election Returns

This is a very cost efficient way of cheating. After the counting is completed in the precinct, the votes are recorded in a document called the Election Return. The intercalation of a single digit can result in a hundred votes added in favor of a candidate. And this is so easy to do because by this time the level of awareness had been relaxed, the recording being anti-climactic to the counting.

11) Falsification of Statement of Votes or Certificate of Canvass in the Municipal or City Board of Canvassers

And this becomes even more vicious when the manipulation is done at the level of the city or municipal board of canvassers. The results of all the precincts in a city or municipality are recorded in a document called the Statement of Votes which is prepared by the board of canvassers. Note that municipalities or cities have thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of voters. The insertion or intercalation of one or two digits can result in tens of thousands of votes undeservedly added.

12) Falsification of Statement of Votes or Certificate of Canvass in the Provincial Board of Canvassers

The situation becomes fatal if the manipulation is done at the level of the provincial board of canvassers, given the number of voters in most provinces which can go up to a million.

OFW said...

The Philippines would not be the Philippines that it is without all the irregularities the we grew up with and are accustomed and callused to already. Get used to it or leave it.

r.g. lacsamana said...

Gregory, that article you cited, by
Ding Tanjuactco, listing the ways cheating can occur is an eye-opener.
Amazing how Pinoys can be so inventive. Nicolo Machiavelli would have been cheered by how his methods have become even better, and working to perfection.

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Anonymous said...

I remember years ago when Manoling Morato was suggesting that Lotto Machines be reconfigured to count votes. I know it's pretty far-out, but I'm thinking, if we can install Lotto machines practically all over the country and the number of winners determined less the 12 hours after the draw, what is so hard about installing a nationwide vote counting system?