Friday, June 04, 2010

Hi-tech manipulation

WAS there really cheating during the first automated polls in the Philippines held last May 10, 2010? Of course, there was. Believably, it has always been so since the first national elections in 1946 (after the rebirth of Philippine independence in July 4, 1946) but only gained widespread notoriety during the snap elections in 1986 that saw computer encoders walking out for failing to swallow blatant electoral fraud and manipulations that brandished an ailing Ferdinand Marcos leading by a million over Corazon Aquino.

The craft of vote shaving popularly known as “dagdag-bawas” had seemingly become a tolerable lot together with vote buying that in some provinces is now going at the rate of Five Hundred to Three Thousand Pesos per electorate. But the budget for vote buying, advertising and mobilization pales in comparison to the hefty sum allocated to “election operators” that reportedly has become a big syndicate that fleece millions of pesos from local and national candidates in exchange for sure victory.

The street adage that nobody is defeated only cheated has become commonplace and reflective of Philippine electoral politics that according to the bishops “is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.”

Although the manual count conducted by Congress sitting as the national board of canvassers for president and vice president is, at press time, almost at the tail-end of the canvass, allegations of automated fraud is still raging. Telltale signs and circumstances of cheating had been presented even at the congressional inquiries and in the media. But so far nobody has yet delivered a substantial blow especially to a passive public that do not have a good grasp of the technological sphere.

Admittedly, even the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the citizen’s watchdog, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), are out of the league when it comes to complications in information technology—and, therefore, of computer manipulations which many refer to as technical glitches. The vulnerability of source codes, the hasty reprogramming of Compact Flash Cards and the unsecured data transmission procedures could very well subvert the sovereign will of the people in a highly technical platform that may look so neat and clean yet beyond the powers of ordinary observers. Be that as it may, but in the present order of things, the country is not yet prepared to appreciate the depth and breadth of a hi-tech election manipulation.

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