Technology, democracy and elections in The Philippines

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    Dr. Francisco A. MagnoDanica Ella P. Panelo


    IN THE


    Dr. Francisco A. MagnoDanica Ella P. Panelo

  • Copyright 2017 by Albert Del Rosario Institute for Strategic and International Studies

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  • Stratbase ADR InstituteThe Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) is an independent international and strategic research organization with the principal goal of addressing the issues affecting the Philippines and East Asia.

    Victor Andres Dindo C. ManhitPresident, Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi)

    BOARD OF TRUSTEESAmbassador Albert del Rosariowas the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines from 2011 to 2016. He also served as Philippine Ambassador to the United States of America from 2001 to 2006.

    Manuel V. Pangilinanis CEO and managing director of First Pacific Company Limited. He is also the chairman of MPIC, PLDT, Meralco, and Smart Communications, among others.

    Edgardo G. Lacsonis an honorary chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI). He was the former president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines.

    Benjamin Philip G. Romualdezis the president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines since 2004. He is also the vice president for Industry of the PCCI.

    Ernest Z. Boweris senior adviser for Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is CEO of BowerGroupAsia (BGA), and a leading expert on Southeast Asia.

    Renato C. de Castro, Ph. Dis a full professor of international studies at De La Salle University Manila (DLSU). He holds the Charles Lui Chi Keung Professorial Chair in China Studies.

    Judge Raul C. Pangalangan, Ph. Dis a judge of the International Criminal Court. He was previously a dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law and publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

    Epictetus E. Patalinghug, Ph. Dis a professor emeritus at the Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business, University of the Philippines (UP), Diliman.

    Francisco A. Magno, Ph. Dis the President of the Philippine Political Science Association. He is a professor of political science at DLSU.

    Carlos Primo C. David, Ph. Dis a professor of Geology and Environmental Science in UP Diliman. He heads the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development.

  • Executive Summary viii

    Introduction 1

    Technology, Turnout and Credibility 2 While technologies open up new frontiers, careful consideration must be given to the risks of inappropriate or untimely introduction of technology

    Youth Engagement and Technology 3 Overview of Automated Elections 5

    History of Automated Elections in the Philippines 6

    How the AES Works 8The Philippines has adapted the paper-based election system composed of an Election Management System, Precinct Count Optical Scan machines/Vote Counting Machines and a Consolidation/Canvassing System

    The AES and its Security Features 9

    Performance Assessment and Election Credibility 14Third-party assessments of the 2016 elections found that Filipinos have a positive view towards their conduct, characterizing them as fast, orderly, and violence-free

    COMELEC Performance Scorecard 19

    Random Manual Audit Results 32 Views from Civil Society 32 Conclusion 35


    About the Author


  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARYPeople around the world have progressively relied on technology in their

    everyday lives. In contrast, even in developed, long-standing democracies, elections are often held manually, as the mechanics of the voting process remain largely rooted in the past.

    When properly implemented, technology can modernize elections and address many of the obstacles experienced by countries using the manual voting process. At a time of increasing distrust between citizens and governments, technology can play a critical role in creating a more transparent and inclusive electoral process. To do this, however, technology leaders must reach out to key government and societal stakeholders to forge partnerships designed to enhance electoral credibility.

    The 2016 Philippine elections, which were automated, have generally received positive assessments from various election stakeholders. In addition, these elections were better managed than those held in 2010 and 2013, with the electorate having greater confidence in the system in 2016 than in the past.

    Positive assessments are sometimes accompanied with caveats that should be the foundation for future improvements. These comments are generally focused on specific aspects of the election process, especially in terms of the minimum system requirements set out in the Automated Elections Law. Thus, while there are problem areas to look into, these do not detract from the credible and orderly conduct of this years elections.

    This Special Study discusses the relationship between election automation and election turnout, specifically among the youth, and overall credibility. It traces the history of and reasoning behind election automation in the Philippines, beginning from the effort of the 1992 Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to modernize the electoral process. It then explains the mechanisms behind the Automated Election System, its security features, manual checks, and performance assessment, to include the COMELECs Performance Scorecard.

    The Study incorporates views from civil society, particularly regarding the implementation of the AES Law and areas wherein the COMELEC must work on ensuring the full transparency of the system through electronic tools and in partnership with election watchdogs. It concludes by identifying avenues for improving the election system in the country, such as: capturing and publicizing data on youth participation; improving registration procedures for indigenous people and people with disabilities; improving public awareness of the correct ways to mark ballots; and continuing to publish the election results online for public access.


  • Technology, Democracy, and Elections in the Philippines


    People around the world have progressively relied on technology in their everyday lives. The character of social interactions is rapidly evolving with the ubiquity of personal computers, smart devices, and Internet applications. In contrast, some elections, even in developed, long-standing democracies, remain to be conducted manually, with the mechanics of the voting process still largely rooted in the past even in the 21st century. In an era when people use technology to engage in almost everything, from business and education to leisure, it is high time for political activities such as elections to catch up with the modern age.

    Technology can modernize elections when properly implemented. There are pathways toward responsibly using technology as a means to address many of the obstacles countries experience with manual voting. Governments, as well as citizens today, have the rare opportunity to proactively and strategically use technology to foster democracy. At a time of increasing distrust between citizens and governments, technology can play a critical role in creating a more transparent and inclusive electoral process. To do this, technology leaders must reach out to key government and societal stakeholders to forge partnerships designed to enhance electoral credibility.1



  • Technology, Turnout and Credibility

    Election technology often refers to software programs, Internet platforms, and electronic equipment including computers, printers, scanners, and bar code readers. They range from the use of basic office automation tools, such as word processing and spreadsheets to more sophisticated data processing tools, such as database management systems, optical scanning, electronic voting, and geographical information systems. Such technologies had been adopted to reduce or eliminate over-votes, spoiled ballots, and under-votes, as well as other related problems under the manual voting system.2 More importantly, there are also claims that election technology will increase the accessibility and convenience of voting for citizens thus leading to a higher voter turnout.

    Pattie and Johnston argued that a rational voter will likely weigh the costs and benefits of voting, or the time and effort to go to the polling station to cast a vote (cost) and whether his or her vote will have an impact on the election result (benefit). They use this theory to explain why some individuals do not choose to vote while others who are living in other areas decide to vote.3

    Credible elections are integral to democracy. In other words, a credible poll reflects the will of the citizens, who accept the election as a vehicle to include their voices in the political process. How do we then measure electoral credibility? Researchers have studied various aspects of the electoral process to determine the integrity, or credibility, of the outcome, and the common finding points to the importance of voter turnout in measuring the credibility of election results.

    A high level of voter turnout has traditionally been viewed as a strong indicator of electoral credibility. Particularly since the start of the Third Wave, an era of democratic transitions that began in the 1970s, democracy practitioners have looked to voter participation or turnout as a key signifier of democracy. According to this view, robust voter turnout on election day is a sign of high electoral credibility. Conversely, most observer groups regard low voter turnout as a challenge to the credibility of elections and a barrier for democracy.4

    Most electoral management bodies around the world today use technologies to improve the electoral process. Some of these tools have been available for some time and their strengths and weaknesses are well known. Every year, however, new technologies and tools are introduced to the market. As present, there are several


  • voting systems in use that automate the recording or counting of votes cast. Other systems verify voter eligibility and voter authentication. Some countries also experiment with internet voting as a way to facilitate remote voting and to increase voter participation and turnout. All of these efforts aim to ensure the credibility of the democratic process and the reliability of election results.

    While these technologies open up new frontiers and offer new possibilities for the electoral process, there may be unforeseen risks, such as an increase in vote selling or difficulty in auditing election results if the technology is not well designed. Careful consideration must therefore be given to the risks of inappropriate or untimely introduction of technology, especially if it has the potential to compromise voter turnout as well as the credibility, transparency, and sustainability of the electoral process.5

    Youth Engagement and Technology

    According to Iyengar and Jackman, no other group is as disengaged from the electoral process as the young. While they are often involved in informal, politically relevant processes, such as civic engagement or activism, they are not formally represented in national political institutions, such as parliaments, and many of them do not participate in elections.6 The consequences of age-related imbalances in political participation for the democratic process are obvious. Elected officials respond to the preferences of voters and not to those of non-voters. As rational actors, candidates and political parties tend to ignore the young and therefore a vicious cycle ensues.

    Iyengar and Jackman also enumerated several possible reasons for political avoidance by the youngest portion of the electorate. First is that elections and campaigns are thought to have little relevance for youth because they are preoccupied by short-term factors associated with the transition to adulthood, such as residential mobility, development of significant interpersonal relationships outside the family, the college experience, and the search for permanent employment. Against the backdrop of such significant personal milestones, political campaigns then appear remote and inconsequential.

    Another factor is the political subculture of the youth. In particular, young


  • people lack the psychological affiliations so important for political engagement. Partisanship is what bonds voters to campaigns, and the sense of party identification is more firmly entrenched among older citizens who have had multiple opportunities to cast partisan votes. The young are also less likely to have internalized relevant civic incentives or beliefs about the intrinsic value of keeping abreast of public affairs.

    Consequently, coming up with solutions for the problem of politically disengaged youth has attracted considerable attention over the past few years. Many agree that the current revolution in information technology provides a significant new opportunity to connect the youth to the electoral process since they are in the vanguard of computer-based media.

    School-age children and young adults are in fact considerably over-represented among all computer and Internet users. In contrast to their under-representation in any form of political action, the youth enjoy a massive advantage when considering the daily use of information technology. Therefore, should the worlds of technology and politics be combined, there is a high possibility that the young and adults would be equally active.7

    Various proponents argue that using technology to modernize the election process, especially the implementation of electronic voting (e-voting) or remote internet voting, could boost electoral participation. Under this voting system, election data is recorded, stored, and processed in the form of DI (digital information). Everything is automated in this system from the registration process, vote casting, counting or poll generation. E-voting is thought to be a particularly important reform designed to encourage turnout among younger people.8 However, it is also important to combine political content and interactive technology in order to effectively engage young people throughout the entire electoral process, not just on election day.

    The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) suggests the use of online platforms for knowledge sharing and networking among politically engaged youth. Social media, blogs, and other online tools can give educated young citizens a voice for political activism as well as open channels for direct feedback between government officials and the youth. Election management bodies could also implement entertaining methods and multimedia strategies such as interactive online games and mobile applications to catch the interest of the younger generation.9


  • Overview of Automated Elections

    An automated election system (AES) primarily uses technology toward ensuring faster, efficient, accurate, and secure elections. The concept of using technology in the conduct of elections has in fact been around for quite some time. As early as 1889, mechanical lever machines had been used to prevent over-votes and speed up the counting process.10 Rapid technological developments subsequently gave way to the use of new computing technologies in elections, including punch cards, optical scan systems, and electronic voting machines. The advent of the Internet also made distance voting possible for populations living in remote areas and places with limited access to polling stations.

    As a result, different countries have already considered automating their election systems in the past few years. The degree of automation, however, still varies from system to system. Some countries have fully automated election systems starting from the registration of voters up until the transmission of results while others still make use of a paper-based system for voting and an electronic transmission of results. Nevertheless, most automated systems prove to be more convenient for voters, provide faster and accurate results, prevent electoral fraud particularly during transmission due to reduced human intervention, as well as increase voter accessibility. When the system is properly implemented, it significantly improves the entire electoral process.

    However, there are inevitable challenges that undermine the credibility of an automated election system. Educating an electorate that is mostly unfamiliar with the election system also requires a massive educational campaign, which may cause additional expenses on the part of the government and civil society.

    The adaption of an automated election system can exhibit a countrys level of modernization. But governments should not choose to automate their elections just for that sole reason. In deciding to adopt and implement an automated election system, the systems advantages must always outweigh its drawbacks. All stakeholders the government, election management bodies, civil society organizations, and the general public must also benefit from the system. More importantly, there should be a strong public trust in the automated system so as to ensure credible, accurate, and secure elections.11


  • History of Automated Elections in the Philippines

    The long history of manual elections in the Philippines has always been subject to electoral fraud. In manual elections, voters wrote the names of their candidates on the ballot, which they drop in a box. These are read aloud and recorded on a tally board.12 Such procedure allowed a lot of room for human intervention, which made the process susceptible to fraud. In particular, electoral fraud can be in the form of ballot snatching or substitutions, the infamous dagdag-bawas or vote padding and shaving, voter disenfranchisement, as well as fabrication of election returns and canvassed results. These problems had resulted to public outcry that impelled the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the constitutional body tasked to enforce and administer all laws and regulations concerning the conduct of elections, to adopt an automated election system in the Philippines.13

    In 1992, the COMELEC initiated Operation Modex, or Modernization and Excellence, to modernize the electoral process. The program involved several components, such as the modernization of the voting process, conducting election education campaigns, decentralization of COMELEC for better and more efficient service delivery, and the professionalization of the body and its personnel. In the following years, COMELEC began to commission foreign consultants to conduct studies on election modernization in the Philippines and COMELEC officials also traveled to the United States to inspect the American voting system. An American company was then chosen to supply the canvassing equipment, with COMELEC conducting public demonstrations using two loaned units from the supplier. No contract between COMELEC and the supplier could be signed, however, pending the passage of a law that will allow COMELEC to conduct the relevant electoral reform.

    Republic Act No. 8046 was the first electoral reform law in the Philippines. Signed in 1995, it allowed the COMELEC to conduct a nationwide demonstration of a computerized election system as well as a pilot test in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the 1996 elections. The change in administration during that period also led to the repetition of the bidding process and another supplier was chosen to provide the equipment for the pilot test. The new equipment consisted of machines with optical mark recognition capacities in scanning and tallying computerized ballots. COMELEC personnel and ARMM field officials were then trained to handle the whole electoral process and the results were determined


  • just 48 to 72 hours after the closing of the polls. Demonstrations of the new system to the public followed.

    In 1997, Republic Act No. 8436 was passed into law, which authorized COMELEC to implement an automated election system in the May 1998 elections as well as in subsequent national and local elections. But the automated system was only used in a number of provinces Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in the 1998 elections because of the lack of preparation and budget on the part of the COMELEC. Moreover, the machines used in some parts of the ARMM were proven to have caused problems in the counting while irregularities in subsequent elections discouraged the public from trusting the automated system.

    It was not until after the 2004 elections that the use of the automated system again received attention due to a vote padding and shaving controversy. Republic Act No. 8436 was then amended by Republic Act No. 9369 in 2007 or the Election Automation Law. In addition to the use of appropriate technology for the national and local elections, the amendment calls for transparent, credible, fair and accurate elections.14 During the 2008 elections in the ARMM, the paper-based system and the direct recording electronic (DRE) election system were tested. Both of the systems made the process of voting, counting, and canvassing faster while winning candidates were announced within 48 hours after the closing of polls. Subsequently, Republic Act No. 9525 which appropriated the sum of Php11.3 billion for an automated election system was passed in the Senate.

    An automated election system was conducted nationwide during the 2010 elections. The COMELEC primarily selected the paper-based election system over other technologies such as the DRE because of its paper audit feature, while Smartmatic Corp., Inc. (Smartmatic) and its local partner Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) were chosen as the election technology providers.15

    The 2010 automated elections altered the conduct of elections in the Philippines. Elections pushed through as scheduled because all technical problems were deemed to have been addressed, including the faulty memory chips of the counting machines that were discovered a few weeks before election day. 75,882 machines still worked smoothly, with only 465 machines or 0.6% reportedly malfunctioning. Compared to past elections where the winners were known after weeks or months, local winners were determined in a few hours while half of the national winners were known after a day. More importantly, election-related violence and public


  • anxiety were significantly reduced as the time for counting and canvassing of votes was cut short.16

    Observers of the 2013 elections made similar assessments. However, it was also described as generally peaceful and organized especially due to the smaller volume of election-related violence as compared to previous election years.17

    Both the 2010 and 2013 elections made use of the paper-based election system and Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. For the 2016 elections, the PCOS machines were replaced by Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) with enhanced security and technology. The same technology provider of the PCOS machines, Smartmatic, supplied the VCMs for the 2016 automated elections.

    How the AES Works

    The Philippines has adapted the paper-based election system composed of an Election Management System (EMS), a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine/Vote Counting Machines (VCM), and a Consolidation/Canvassing System (CCS). This type of system by COMELECs work model does not encompass a fully automated process. It uses paper ballots which the voter still has to manually fill out. The EMS, which manages all data and information involving the automated elections, prepares the ballots used in the national and local elections for every province, city, and municipality throughout the Philippines. In terms of practical voting experience, its difference from the manual elections is that the voter no longer writes the names of his or her preferred candidates but instead shades the corresponding oval beside the name of his or her choice.

    Afterwards, the ballot is fed into a vote counting machine which reads the ballot and records the votes. It is a form of Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology that scans data based on marks detected by the computer. The VCM contains a removable memory card that stores the election results, digital image of the ballots and audit logs. It also contains a source code that serves as instructions for the machine. In addition, the PCOS machine has a built-in audit paper trail function.

    The 2016 elections used the VCMs instead of the PCOS machines. The difference between the two technologies is that the VCM has more powerful features such as a more powerful processor that is seven times faster, uses random access memory


  • (RAM) that is 32 times bigger than used in the old PCOS, can charge external battery while machine is plugged in, is capable of detecting stain and dirt so that Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) may be alerted.

    Security was also enhanced with stronger encryption keys for digital signatures and requiring three digital signatures to operate the VCM and transmit results. Other improvements include the use of a more reliable SD cards as external storage media, ultra-violet detectors for ballot authentication, a ballot segregation system which prevents reading of ballots from other precinct. A source code review was also conducted earlier for scrutiny of concerned parties. Printing of receipts or Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in order to verify if the machine has correctly interpreted the ballot is also a feature of the VCM.

    At the end of the election day, the votes are digitally counted. The votes counted or election returns are printed and are then transmitted by the machines from the voting precincts to the different canvassing servers and centers. Consolidation and canvassing of election returns are transmitted on a ladderized manner from the municipal board of canvassers (MBOC)/city board of canvassers (CBOC), to the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC) and lastly the national board of canvassers (NBOC). Both the MBOC and PBOC transmit separate election returns to the central servers. Moreover, the viewing of transmitted election results online was made possible during the 2016 National Elections through a public website set up by the COMELEC.18

    The AES and its Security Features

    The Election Automation Law (R.A. 9369) defines the AES as a system that uses appropriate technology that has been demonstrated in the voting, counting, consolidating, canvassing, and transmission


  • of election results and other electoral processes. There are three elements under this system people, data or information, and procedure or system. The people include all election stakeholders, from the election management bodies to the civil society organizations and voters, while the data or information covers all election-related information from election laws to campaign materials.

    Section 7 of R.A. 8436, as amended by Sec. 7 of R.A. 9369, states that the AES should have the following minimum system capabilities: adequate security against unauthorized access; accuracy in recording and reading votes as well as in the tabulation, consolidation or canvassing, electronic transmission, and storage of results; error recovery in case of non-catastrophic failure of device; system integrity which ensures physical stability and functioning of the vote recording and counting process; provision for voter verified paper audit trail; system auditability which provides supporting documentation for verifying the correctness of reported election results; an election management system for preparing ballots and programs for use in the casting and counting of votes and to consolidate, report and display election results in the shortest time possible; accessibility to illiterates and disabled voters; vote tabulating program for election, referendum or plebiscite; accurate ballot counters; data retention provision; provide for the safekeeping, storing and archiving of physical or paper resource used in the election process; it must utilize or generate official ballots; provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice; and configure access control for sensitive system data and functions.

    In addition, the COMELEC is also mandated to develop and adopt an evaluation system to ascertain that the above minimum system capabilities are met in the procurement of an appropriate technology for the automated elections. This evaluation system shall be developed with the assistance of an Advisory Council composed of


  • nonpartisan members of known independence, technical competence, and probity. The councils main function therefore is to recommend the most appropriate, secure, applicable, and cost-effective technology to be applied in the AES, in whole or in part, which should also comply with the following general requirements:

    Testing and Pre-sealing

    To provide another layer of security, the counting machines shall, prior to deployment for the elections, be tested and certified by the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), undergo two to three field tests to fine-tune the system, and a mock election to simulate the actual conditions in the elections. Pursuant to Section 10 of R.A. 9369, the said committee shall be composed of representatives, one from COMELEC, Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) who shall act as chairman of the committee.

    Pursuant to Resolution 8785, there will also be a final testing and sealing procedure at least three days before the election day where the public will again accomplish test ballots. These ballots will be counted manually and election returns showing the results will be prepared. Then the same set of ballots will be counted by the counting machines and the results will be compared with that of the manual counting. If the results are the same, the participants will certify the veracity of the results by signing on the printed elections returns. Once the witnesses are satisfied with the accuracy, the machine will be turned off and sealed without any network or transmission connection. The public will then be allowed to secure the machines and the polling places. The next time the counting machines will be opened will be on election day, in the presence of the different watchers and Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).

    Source Code Review

    Upon realizing that the process of computerized counting of vote marks on paper ballots will be done internally and in secret by the computer, the framers of


  • R.A. 9369 provided an alternative that may be acceptable as a substitute to public counting. They came up with the source code review, or the process of auditing the source code to verify that the proper security controls are present, that they work as intended, and that they have been invoked in all the right places. With the source code review conducted by experts and supervised by the TEC, the computerized counting of votes, although carried out by the counting machines, will be revealed and so the computerized counting will be acceptable as if it were public counting.

    Voting, Counting, Canvassing, Transmission

    The COMELEC resolved to adopt a paper-based automated election. This means that machine-readable ballots shall be used for the elections which shall be counted electronically by the machine. Pursuant to Section 206 of Batas Pambansa 881, as amended by Section 35 of R.A. 9369, the counting shall be done in public and without interruption. In addition, the machines should have a built-in audit paper trail function in the form of printed receipts similar to what one gets from transactions in Automated Teller Machines (ATM) to verify if they have correctly interpreted the shades that a voter placed in the ovals next to the names of his or her chosen candidates.

    At the end of the voting day, the BEI members will close the elections by accessing the administrative menu on the counting machine through which they shall again key in their pins. This is where the close function of the counting machines sets in for the purpose of preventing additional ballots from being inserted. After the close function, the machines will start counting and consolidating all the votes it had scanned. Unlike in the manual process, counting process by the machines happens instantly. After counting is done, the counting machines then automatically prints eight copies of the election returns at the precinct level certified by the BEIs and poll watchers, together with a statistic report and an audit trail for easier checking should there be contestation.

    Afterwards, the BEIs will then connect a modem to the machine to access the network through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) internet. They will then input their secret keys onto the electronic election returns (ERs) to digitally sign it and then encrypt. The ERs are then electronically transmitted from Precinct Level


  • to Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) where results city and municipal positions are tallied. Then results are sent to the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOCs) who then tally for provincial and district positions. Finally, the results are transmitted to the National board of Canvassers (NBOCs) and central Server for consolidation of national positions.

    The counting machines shall also print additional twenty two copies of the election returns, which shall be sealed and placed in the proper envelopes for distribution. Consolidation and canvassing of election returns are, as said, transmitted on a ladderized manner from the MBOC/CBOC, to the PBOC and, lastly, the NBOC. At all levels, separate election returns to the central and transparency servers, which serves as a parallel check for all poll watchdogs, and dominant political parties.

    Random Manual Audit

    The Random Manual Audit is performed in order to check the results produced by the poll counting machines against the manually counted ballots as prescribed under Resolution 8837. After the electronic transmission of the results is over, the Random Manual Audit (RMA) teams, under the supervision of the COMELEC Technical Working Group (TWG), will conduct manual audits of ballot boxes from five clustered precincts, which are randomly selected using a tambiolo with numbered balls as in the case in 2010, and a randomizer software in 2016. This is done in each of the 299 legislative districts in the country. In 2010, a total of 1,145 out of 76,340 precincts nationwide were subjected to random manual audit. In the last elections, 715 precincts out of 92,509 clustered precincts were randomly selected for the audit.

    The positions that will be manually counted for the audit include the president, vice president, district representative, governor and mayor.

    Continuity Plan and Analogous Contingency Measures

    What if problems and technical glitches surface on the election day? Are there backup strategies prepared by COMELEC to address them? The legislature


  • through Section 9 of R.A. 8436, as amended by Section 11 of R.A. 9369, has also authorized COMELEC to put up a continuity plan, which is a set of instructions and contingency plan involving machine replacements and other troubleshooting procedures that are executed under the National Support Center command in case of system failure or any other analogous situations.19

    Performance Assessment and Election Credibility

    In July 2016, Pulse Asia Research Inc. conducted a nationwide survey on the May 2016 Elections. The fieldwork for this Ulat ng Bayan survey was conducted from July 2 to 8, 2016 by means of face-to-face interviews based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults aged 18 years old and above. It has a 3% error margin at the 95% confidence level, while subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a 6% error margin at 95% confidence level.


    Base: Total Interviews, 100%

    In accordance with the following bases or standards, how would you characterize the May 2013/2016 elections in your place? Let us begin with (STANDARD). How would you say that the last May election is




    Orderly July 2016 93 91 93 92 96 90 93 95

    June 2013 92 87 93 94 90 92 92 92

    Disorderly July 2016 5 7 6 7 3 8 6 3

    June 2013 7 10 6 4 9 6 7 7

    Cant say July 2016 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2

    June 2013

    1 3 0 1 1 2 1 1


    There was vote buying July 2016 25 18 26 29 25 30 26 21

    June 2013 34 28 26 59 31 35 39 21

    There was no vote buying July 2016 66 77 63 61 70 57 65 71

    June 2013 59 60 66 33 64 57 54 70

    Table 1A. Standards of the May 2013/2016 Elections, June 2013 and July 2016/ Philippines(In Percent)


  • According to the survey, Filipinos have a generally positive assessment of the conduct of the May 2016 elections. In particular, almost all respondents think that the release of election results in their place was fast (92%), characterize the conduct of the elections in their respective areas as orderly (93%), and claim that they did not observe any occurrence of electoral violence (95%). Sizeable to huge majorities, on the other hand, opine that there was no vote buying and cheating in their localities (66% and 83%, respectively) and describe the electoral results as believable (89%). Such were the predominant sentiments across geographic areas and socio-economic classes. (Please refer to Table 1A and 1B.)


    In accordance with the following bases or standards, how would you characterize the May 2013/2016 elections in your place? Let us begin with (STANDARD). How would you say that the last May election is




    There was cheating July 2016 10 12 10 8 11 8 11 7

    June 2013 13 13 12 14 15 17 15 7

    No cheating occurred July 2016 83 81 80 87 87 79 83 86

    June 2013 82 76 85 79 81 77 79 91

    Cant say July 2016 7 7 11 5 3 13 7 7

    June 2013 5 10 3 7 4 6 6 2


    There was violence July 2016 4 2 2 6 8 5 4 4

    June 2013 10 10 10 13 6 16 10 7

    No violence occurred July 2016 95 97 97 94 90 94 96 94

    June 2013 89 86 90 86 93 83 88 93

    Cant say July 2016 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 2

    June 2013 1 4 0 2 1 1 2 0



    Release of results was fast July 2016 92 93 94 93 86 92 93 89

    June 2013 86 85 90 89 78 91 86 85

    Release of results wasnt fast

    July 2016 6 7 4 5 12 7 5 9

    June 2013 11 12 9 9 18 6 12 12 Cant say

    July 2016 2 1 2 1 2 1 1 2 June 2013 2 4 1 2 5 3 2 2


    Results are believable July 2016 89 86 87 90 94 85 90 89

    June 2013 88 82 91 90 83 88 87 89

    Results are not believable July 2016 6 8 7 6 4 9 6 7

    June 2013 8 12 8 4 11 7 9 8

    Cant say July 2016 5 6 6 4 2 5 4 5

    June 2013 4 6 1 6 5 6 4 3

    Base: Total Interviews, 100%

    Table 1B. Standards of the May 2013/2016 Elections, June 2013 and July 2016/ Philippines(In Percent)


  • In addition, sizeable to big majorities consider the results of the 2016 polls to be more credible (63%) and the pace of the release of electoral results to be faster (78%) as compared to the 2010 elections. These are also the majority opinions in every geographic area (55% to 71% and 74% to 81%, respectively) and socio-economic groupings (59% to 65% and 75% to 81%, respectively).20 (Please refer to Table 2.)

    In a media briefing past nine o clock in the evening on May 9, 2016, COMELEC claimed that the transmission of votes for the 2016 National Elections is the fastest in the countrys history of automated polls. Chairman Andres Bautista particularly pointed out that the vote transmission rate as of eight o clock in the evening was already at 60%. In the same hour, the transmission was at 17% in 2010 and at 23% in


    Table 2. Comparing the 2016 Elections with the 2010 Elections Based on StandardsJuly 2-8, 2016/ Philippines

    (In Percent)

    In accordance with the following bases or standards, how would you characterize the May 2013/2016 elections in your place? Let us begin with (STANDARD). How would you say that the last May election is



    More cheating now 5 5 3 9 4 5 5 5

    Less cheating now

    41 52 34 38 51 36 43 38

    Same as before with rampant cheating

    10 8 13 5 9 11 9 10

    Same as before with little cheating 22 18 24 23 21 34 21 20

    Cant say 23 17 27 24 16 15 22 27


    Faster now 78 81 77 80 74 81 78 75

    Slower now 7 7 7 6 7 5 7 7

    As fast as before 12 9 13 11 15 11 13 13

    As slow as before 2 2 1 1 3 2 1 3

    Cant say 2 1 2 2 1 0 2 2


    More credible now 63 67 55 69 71 59 63 65

    Less credible now 9 9 13 7 4 15 9 8

    As credible as before 20 16 23 17 20 16 20 22

    Base: Total Interviews, 100%


  • 2013.21 The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) also reported that 96.14% of election results were transmitted to the transparency server within 3 days after elections, as compared to 90% in 2010 and 76% in 2013. They even noted the 2016 voter turn-out, which, at 81%, is higher compared to the 77% in 2013 and 74% in 2010.22

    In general, the fast public availability of vote tallies through unofficial figures provided by PPCRV significantly shortened the period of uncertainty that used to exist between the closing of polls and the public knowledge of results. The historic 81% voter turnout also was an important indicator of the credibility of the 2016 elections, with various election stakeholders and citizen groups assessing this years polls as having been managed far better than the past automated elections in spite of some problem areas. Although the electorates confidence in the results of the 2016 election system mainly stems from Rodrigo Dutertes wide victory margin, which was supplemented by the formal concession announcements of his three leading challengers,23 it is clear that the rapid transmission of results that dramatically shortened the period of indeterminacy also did a lot in shoring up credibility and believability of the elections.

    On the other hand, election-related violence and vote buying remain the major election irregularities that beset the elections. In the case of the former, records from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and election watchdogs show a significant decrease in election-related incidence (ERIs) since COMELEC introduced the automated election system in the Philippines. PNP reported that from January 10 to June 8 of 2016, there had been 90 validated ERIs (out of 310 reported cases) as compared to 178 in 2007, 166 in 2010, and 109 in 2013. This was also supported by the tallies from other groups which counted 60 confirmed ERIs out of the 230 reported cases during the 2016 elections.24

    The Carter Center, a US-based Non-Government Oranization (NGO) that monitors elections, pointed out that violence around Philippine polls may or may not be related to elections themselves and often has multiple causes, thus requiring validation of all reported cases. In fact, a significant volume of violence is actually linked to local-level rivalries such as clan feuds (also known as rido among the Moro and pangayaw among the indigenous peoples in Mindanao), business-related arguments, or kidnapping for ransom which is done to raise funds. However, they maintained that the base level of general criminality and violence, much of which


  • is not election-related, seems to be even across the Philippines in contrast to the common understanding of such being limited to Mindanao.25

    The Pulse Asia survey figures are generally similar as those recorded by Pulse Asia in June 2013 when Filipinos were asked to evaluate the conduct of the May 2013 elections based on the same standards presence of cheating in your place; presence of violence in your place; release of the results of the count in your place; and believability of results in your place. However, the difference is that there is a bigger percentage of survey respondents who say there was no vote buying in their area during the 2016 elections at 66% as compared to the 59% in 2013.26 (Please refer to Table 1A.)

    In the case of vote-buying, it is identified as an act punishable by law in accordance to the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines or Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, Section 261(a). The introduction of poll automation in 2010 has led to the increase in incidents of vote buying, with poll operators no longer able to affect the election results through vote-padding, vote-shaving, and other forms of electoral fraud. This problem has not only persisted but has in fact grown even more prevalent as vote-buying activities are very hard to detect, let alone prove.

    Election watchdogs have reported that vote-buying has become more sophisticated and now comes in different forms from hiring local leaders and heads of families to get block voting or stop people from voting, to distribution of groceries (rice, canned goods, and other kitchen requirements), from rendering of services (free dental, medical check-up, and legal services), medicines and other medical needs, to promise of employment, infrastructure projects or scholarships, among others.

    The emergence of these newer and more subtle forms of vote-buying has made it harder for voters to detect it as fraud. Moreover, the absence of stricter implementation of laws prohibiting such acts during elections27 have contributed to the unabated proliferation of this practice.

    It is worth noting that a big plurality of survey respondents (41%) believe that there was less incidence of cheating in the May 2016 elections than in May 2010. This sentiment is also shared by majorities in Mindanao (51%) and Metro Manila (52%), as well as sizeable to big pluralities in the Visayas (38%) and Class D (43%).28 (Please refer to Table 2.)

    In any AES, any attempt at cheating is not as simple as padding numbers, as in


  • manual elections. Any attempt, assuming that electronic cheating is even possible, should be massive and sporadically distributed to lessen the possibility of detection especially given the vigilance of election watchdogs and the general public. Election-related irregularities such as malfunctioning vote counting machines, inconsistent vote receipts, power interruptions, etc. do not really amount to anything especially if there are only a few isolated cases. But this is not to discount the possibility of election cheating. In fact, cheating was observed in several precincts in the form of election paraphernalia posting, illegal campaigning, and the presence of flying voters, among others. However, such efforts have been inconsequential in terms of national-level election results.29

    On the other hand, much of the allegations of fraud in the 2016 elections were primarily concentrated on the vice-presidential race. The camp of Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. claimed that cheating took place when a small change in one of the output files hash due to corrections applied in some words, which COMELEC described as cosmetic, coincided with an allegedly dubious rise in Representative Leni Robredos votes. The change involved the letter () which Smartmatic had tweaked, upon the request of a member of the media, so that the letter will appear as it is and not as a question mark (?) in the data package containing election results.30 It should be noted that the City Prosecutor of Manila dismissed the complaint for lack of merit.

    COMELEC Performance Scorecard

    According to Chairman Bautista, what COMELEC wanted to do differently in 2016 was to provide a quantitative evaluation of the success or failure of the automated elections to supplement the various qualitative third party assessments such as the Pulse Asia survey. This resulted in COMELEC coming up with a performance scorecard designed to give an objective and measurable assessment of the COMELECs performance in 2016 vis a vis the previous years.

    The COMELEC essentially had two main objectives for 2016. The first is to conduct credible elections. For the Commission, however, it is not enough that the elections are honest they have to be perceived as honest. This meant that a great majority of the population would have to hold the perception that the polls were


  • honest and credible, as measured by third party assessors like Pulse Asia, National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), among others.

    Secondly, and another thing that the COMELEC did differently this 2016, the commission intended to be more focused on the main constituents of the COMELEC the voters. The poll body claimed that it looked for ways and means by which it could enhance the voting experience especially by looking out for the comfort and convenience of the voter.31

    The COMELEC has theorized that a better voter experience would result in a higher turnout, which would lead to a more solid mandate for the winning candidates, thereby making the whole electoral exercise more credible. The net effect is a much stronger democracy.

    To achieve these twin objectives, the COMELEC also formulated the general strategy of ICE TEA, or Inspire, Consult and Engage Transparent, Efficient, and Accountable. Chairman Bautista explained the need to inspire the COMELEC workforce who serves as the actual implementer of the elections. He likewise posited the imperative for further consultation and deeper engagement with their stakeholders, friends, and critics alike.

    Chairman Bautista cited the role of ICE TEA in guiding the Commission as it performed its tasks and functions32 in the last elections.

    Aside from this general strategy to achieve its twin objectives, Chairman Bautista


    Figure 1. Specic Approach of the Comelec


  • said that the COMELEC still adopted a specific strategy for the 2016 automated elections. The Commission aimed to improve upon its performance in the 2010 and 2013 polls, learn from the lessons of these elections, as well as demonstrate how processes could be improved. (Please refer to Figure 1.) This led to the identification of certain key resolved areas/performance indicators (KRAs/KPIs) against which the COMELEC would be measured, and which eventually led to the development of the COMELEC performance scorecard.33

    The first KRA/KPI in the COMELEC performance scorecard is voter turnout. As mentioned, the voter turnout for 2016 was almost 82% as compared to the 74% in 2010 and 77% in 2013. This means that out of the 54.4 million registered voters, about 40 million actually exercised their right of suffrage in this years polls.34 COMELEC Chairman Bautista particularly attributed this to the quality of the candidates which include presidential front runner, and the current President, Rodrigo Duterte.35 He also argued that since we had good candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency, there had been a lot of interest in the elections.

    With respect to our overseas Filipino voters, the voter turnout for this election is also higher compared to the previous polls. According to Commissioner Arthur Lim who is in charge of overseas absentee voting (OAV), they recorded a total of 432,706 (31.25% turnout) overseas absentee voters who participated in the elections out of the 1,376,067 overseas Filipinos who registered.

    The COMELEC actually aimed for 80% OAV turnout, but Atty. Jane Valeza, Director of the COMELEC Office for Overseas Voting noted several factors that prevented the achievement of such a score. These include the high mobility of overseas Filipinos, the distance of residence from the Philippine embassy or consulate where voting was carried out, postal inefficiencies in countries where the OAV was manual. Despite these points, Lim said that OAV for this round of elections was a success with the 2016 polls attracting the highest number of registered overseas voters, which for the first time breached the 1 million mark, and the highest number of registered overseas voters who actually voted.36

    Moreover, even the turnout in the Local Absentee Voting (LAV) was higher compared to that of the 2010 and 2013 elections. Chairman Bautista stated that LAV in 2016 was 77.76% or a total of 19,225 out of the total 24,725 registered voters for this elections compared to the 74.33% in 2010 and 65.59% in 2013.37 (Please refer to Table 3.)


  • The second KRA/KPI in the scorecard is ballot printing. Although printing had been delayed at least three times, eventually starting on February 18, 2016 from the supposed January 25, 2016 date, Chairman Bautista argued that this years printing of the 56,772,230 ballots in 49 days was by far the fastest in automated election history. He also noted that the said printing process was done within a shorter period, even if the number of ballots was greater than the past elections, compared to the ballot printing that ran for 81 days in 2010 and 57 days in 2013.

    The delay was caused by, among other things, a case filed by presidential bet Senator Grace Poe against the COMELEC before the Supreme Court (SC), which prevented the Commission from finalizing its list of candidates until the verdict was out. As a result, the COMELEC had targeted to finish ballot printing at the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City by April 25. Yet exactly a month before the May 9 polls, COMELEC announced on April 9 that it has printed all of the needed ballots more than two weeks ahead of schedule.

    The Chairman also explained that despite the uncertainties brought about by the delays in printing, they were able to make the printing process faster by reformatting the ballot. By just repositioning the names of the candidates, they were able to shrink this years ballot to 20 inches which is around 5 to 7 inches shorter than the ballots used in 2010 and 2013.38 (Please refer to Table 4.)


    KRA/KPI: VOTER TURNOUT 2010 2013 2016

    Total Voters in the PH

    50,653,828 51,345,478 54,363,844

    Turnout 74.99% 77.57% 81.95%

    Total Overseas Filipino Voters



    1,376,067 25.99% 16.11% 31.25%

    Total Local Absentee Voters




    74.33% 65.59% 77.76%

    Table 3. KRA/KPI: Voter Turnout




  • The third KRA/KPI is voter education campaign. After 24 years, the COMELEC was able to reintroduce the debates for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. However, Chairman Bautista also acknowledged the Commissions lack of time, expertise, and resources needed in organizing the debates. To offset these weaknesses, the COMELEC partnered with media outfits and tapped the support of the private sector. As a result, the COMELEC successfully mounted a total of four debates held at Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro, University of the Philippines in Cebu, University of Pangasinan in Dagupan, and University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

    COMELEC went to great lengths to ensure that all registered voters are informed on how to properly cast their votes using the VCM. One measure it implemented was the installation of signage and posters detailing the step-by-step voting procedures. These signage and posters have been set up by election officers in high-pedestrian traffic areas, rail transit stations, and bus and airport terminals, among others. And on election day, signage and posters were also set up in the polling places to effectively direct voters to special lanes and/or assistance desks as well as guide them throughout the voting process.39

    Aside from the instructional component of voter education, the COMELEC also aimed to inspire voters to fulfill their patriotic duty to vote. To this end, they used the branding PILI-PINAS 2016. Tamang Pagboto. Tamang Pagbilang (Choose, Philippines 2016. Right way to vote. Right way to count.)

    In addition, the COMELEC organized a nationwide roadshow to conduct demonstrations of the VCM before live audiences. The goal of the roadshow was to demonstrate the features of the VCM and let voters try and experience how



    2010 2013 2016

    Total No. of Printed Ballots




    Total No. of Days to Complete Printing




    Table 4. KRA/KPI: Ballot Printing


  • to cast their ballot on election day. The COMELEC also produced TV and radio commercials for nationwide airing to extend the reach of such campaign.

    And as part of its voter education efforts, the Commission launched, which was separate from the regular COMELEC website. The site was envisioned to be an online portal to all matters relevant to voter education, featured the latest election news, step-by-step tutorials on the proper use of the VCM, blogposts from the COMELEC Chairman, online application for media accreditation and VCM demo requests, social media feeds, and a host of other important information.40 (Please refer to Table 5.)

    The fourth KRA/KPI is accuracy. With the assistance of NAMFREL and the Philippine Statistics Authority, COMELEC carried out the Random Manual Audit (RMA) of votes to validate the 2016 automated election results. Under R.A. 9369, there should be an RMA in at least one precinct in each legislative district. COMELEC Commissioner Luie Guia, who headed the RMA efforts for the 2016 polls, explained that the process ensures that votes are being properly counted under the automated system. In the light of this, the number of precincts for audit was increased and the pace speeded up.

    The COMELEC ended up conducting a manual audit of results from 715



    2010 2013 2016

    Candidate Debate Media






    Election Signages and Posters




    VCM Roadshow YES No YES

    Separate Information Website




    Table 5. KRA/KPI: Voter Education Campaign


  • clustered precincts nationwide as compared to the 235 precincts in the 2010 and 2013 elections.41 The poll body randomly selected precincts from each legislative district in proportion to the voter population of that area. According to a report by Smartmatic, there were 1,145 randomly-chosen precincts for manual audit nationwide during the 2010 polls, while results from 418 precincts were recalled by the COMELEC in 2013 to double-check disparities with the electronic count.

    Last June 10, 2016, the RMA team announced that the count done by the VCMs matched the manual count with 99.884%, or almost perfect, accuracy.42 In 2010, the accuracy rate as computed via the RMA was 99.6% and this increased to 99.975% in 2013.43 The team noted that the slight disparity between the manual and electronic counts this year was mainly because of interpretations of auditors on ambiguous ballot marks. In particular, the VCMs only recognized ovals that were shaded at least 25% so marks smaller than that were not read. Auditors also noted a number of ballots that had wrong marks and the COMELEC recalled for further scrutiny ballots from precincts that reported more than 10 cases of disparity.44

    As earlier mentioned, the transmission rate in 2016 topped the figures in 2013 and in 2010. Chairman Bautista explained that the COMELEC focused in ensuring the fast transmission of results this year to preclude any suspicion caused by delay. For Chairman Bautista, the credibility of the elections was predicated largely on speedy transmission of results. He also attributed the higher rate of electronic transmission to a well-executed plan that saw the COMELEC, Smartmatic, and the TELCOS working together to identify areas with poor cellular signal and implement remedies such as the deployment of satellites in such areas.45

    The voter receipt was still another interesting aspect of the 2016 elections. On March 17, 2016, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered a final and executory decision ordering the COMELEC to issue printed receipts, denying the poll bodys motion for reconsideration. In a unanimous vote, the SC had previously asked COMELEC to enable the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) feature of the VCMs as being one of the security features mandated by R.A. 9369. A voter verified paper audit trail consists of physical paper records of voter ballots as voters cast them electronically, and the COMELEC had not yet enabled such feature until this years automated elections.

    The COMELEC had questioned the said ruling, saying that reconfiguring the VCMs to issue the paper receipt will derail the election timetable. The poll body


  • also presented two options in its appeal to the SC holding the May 9 polls as scheduled without a new trusted build or postponing the elections to May 23 with a new trusted build. The SC chose the first option which the COMELEC must comply with. However, Chairman Bautista subsequently warned that without a new trusted build for the source code, about 20% of the VCMs that will be used during the elections may malfunction.

    The COMELEC also raised other concerns that activating the feature could prolong the voting procedure, encourage vote buying, or cause confusion which can lead to cheating allegations. It argued that the receipts would not have served any legal purpose as the absence of security features like the hash code, precinct number, and location rendered it without any evidentiary value. It claimed that the receipts would have merely given psychological comfort to the voters that their votes were counted by the VCMs. Yet in the end, the COMELEC complied with the ruling as well as studied the possible risks and corresponding measures to ensure clean elections in 2016.46

    In hindsight, Chairman Bautista said that the ruling probably was a blessing in disguise for COMELEC as it enhanced the voting experience. Filipinos were generally happy to see that the receipt was able to correctly show the candidates that they were voting for. He also added that for the succeeding elections, the Commission will therefore improve upon the voter receipts that are going to be produced so that they will also have security features such as the hash code, precinct number, and location.47

    The COMELEC also claimed that voting had been much easier for the illiterate and people with disabilities (PWDs) as they activated the audio feature of the VCMs in this years elections. In case they had someone shade the ballots in their behalf, they will be able to know who their assistants really voted for using the headphones which will be provided to them.48 (Please refer to Table 6.)


  • The fifth KRA/KPI is security. In addition to the VVPAT, the COMELEC had enabled the three other security features of the VCM for the 2016 polls the digital signatures, ultraviolet (UV) lamps, and the source code. While the SC had stated that the signature of the machine was sufficient for the purposes of R.A. 9369, COMELEC said that there was an added security if the BEIs digital signatures were also used.49 The BEIs, on the other hand, were supposed to digitally sign the election returns and certificates of canvass in 2010 but the feature was disabled by COMELEC For 2016, the Commission had the machine signature as well as the three signatures from the BEIs which were used to authenticate all transmitted election results.

    Technology-wise, the COMELEC pointed out that the VCM is a step-up from the PCOS machines, boasting of a more robust system owing to an upgraded 256-bit security encryption and 1gHz processor.

    While the PCOS machines used Compact Flash(CF) cards, the VCMs used the more robust SD (secure digital) cards. The VCMs are also capable of simultaneous saving and data corruption recovery by using replacement memories making data corruption less likely.50 Such upgrade was intended to improve the reliability of the external media and avoid problems with CF cards in the past elections.

    The UV detection feature for the ballots was also enabled to detect fake ballots for this years elections. In the 2010 elections, COMELEC had disabled the said feature and instead used portable or hand-held UV lamps.51 (Please refer to Table 7.)



    2010 2013 2016

    Random Manual Audit




    Transmission of Results




    Voter Receipt No No YES

    Audio Support for Disabled Voters




    Table 6. KRA/KPI: Accuracy


  • The sixth KRA/KPI is transparency. Chairman Bautista said that the COMELEC had a vastly-improved implementation of mock elections for the 2016 polls, with the poll body conducting the exercise in 40 locations nationwide. The mock polls, open to the public and to the media for transparency, essentially served as a technical rehearsal to test and ensure adequate security, accuracy, and credibility of the VCMs, the transmission devices, and consolidation and canvassing system.

    Other issues included paper jams as well as misread ballots caused by ballot defects or the presence of dirt in the optical scanner. Aside from being one of the four security features of the VCM, the source code review is also a vital transparency indicator for the elections. The source code refers to the version of a software as originally written by a human in plain text. The source code review is therefore important because it allows participants to review, line by line, the software to be used in the polls.

    There were two phases of the source code review the first involving a review of the base code, and the second, of the final customized source code. The first phase was launched by the COMELEC on October 2015 and it allowed participants to take a look at the base source code submitted by Smartmatic including the code of three systems EMS, VCM, and CCS. During the first phase, Smartmatic also provided the on-site support of a developer for each of the systems to explain the code to the reviewers. Moreover, participants had the chance to issue a report with recommendations at the conclusion on December 15, 2016 , which were taken into account in preparing the final customized source code.


    Table 7. KRA/KPI: Security


    2010 2013 2016

    Digital Signature Machine


    Machine + 3

    Data Encryption 128 bit

    128 bit

    256 bit

    Protection of Memory Cards

    CF Cards cannot simultaneously save data in the main and

    back-up cards

    CF Cards cannot simultaneously save data in the main and

    back-up cards

    SD Cards capable to simultaneously save data in the main and

    back-up cards

    UV-Detection Feature

    No YES YES


  • The second phase was launched three months before the 2016 polls. It allowed the reviewers to inspect the final customized source code including all the customizations required by the COMELEC such as the type of information reflected on the VCM screen as well as the language used in the screen display. The two phases of the source code review were made available to the public and an independent certification agency, SLI Global Solutions, was hired by the COMELEC to review and certify the source code. The certification that was issued by SLI on January 27 indicated that the final customized code was found to be without errors or malicious codes, and that such code complies with all of COMELECs requirements.52

    This was markedly different from the experiences during the previous automated polls, during which less than a month was given for the review, as in the 2010 elections. In 2013, a legal dispute between Smartmatic and Dominion prevented an early source code review and left only four days for the whole activity.

    Chairman Bautista cited this as part of the COMELECs efforts to promote transparency for the 2016 elections, which included giving more interested groups, political parties, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society organizations a longer period to review the source code.53

    Another measure that shored up the credibility of the elections was the public ballot printing tracking system, which allowed everyone to track how the ballots are

    being printed, and ensure that no excess ballots are being printed or distributed throughout the country.

    On May 8, 2016, the COMELEC also unveiled a special website for the publication of election results. COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez announced that the website would be publishing election results and certificates of canvass transmitted to the poll bodys central server. The public site system did not rank vote tallies but merely summed these up by location. The site canvassed the results


  • for the Senate and party-list race but not for the presidential and vice-presidential contest as canvassing of the latter races is the sole province of Congress sitting as the NBOC.54 (Please refer to Table 8.)

    The seventh and last KRA/KPI in the scorecard is election services. According to Chairman Bautista, election services are important in meeting the Commissions objective to become more voter-centric and to look for ways by which they can enhance the voting experience.

    In terms of accessibility, the COMELEC reported that they were able to increase the number of PWA-friendly polling centers to 289 in 2016 from four in 2013. They also partnered with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Philippine Association of Law Schools and the Public Attorneys Office to set up legal assistance desks in polling precincts, which ensured that legal assistance was available for any voter or BEI who needed it.

    The availability of medical assistance in the polling centers was another innovation that the poll body introduced in this election. Together with the Department of Health (DOH), the COMELEC set up medical assistance desks in the large polling precincts ready to render first aid to voters who required it. Due


    Table 8. KRA/KPI: TransparencyKRA/KPI: TRANSPARENCY

    2010 2013 2016

    Mock Elections 9 Locations 09 Feb 2010

    28 Locations 02 Feb 2013

    40 Locations 13 Feb 2016

    Source Code Review

    1 Month

    before the 2010 elections

    4 Days

    before the 2013 elections

    7 Months before the 2016

    elections for initial review

    3 Months

    before the 2016 elections for final

    review Public Ballot Printing Tracking System




    Results Website No No Yes


  • to the summer heat, some 17,000 people who experienced fainting, dizziness, or elevated blood pressure were taken to these desks for medical assistance.

    According to Chairman Bautista, election related violence reportedly went down in 2016, which is consistent with third-party assessments. According to the PNP, incidents of election-related violence fell from 166 in 2010 to109 in 2013, and all the way to 90 in 2016.

    An accessibility audit of the polling places was also implemented in the last elections. A continuing program of the Commission with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the United Architects of the Philippines, the audit aims in order to improve the facilities of Philippine public schools to make them more accessible to voters especially to senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

    Moreover, the COMELEC was successful in making the 2016 elections more inclusive to indigenous people (IP). Under the supervision of Commissioner Guia, the poll body set up special polling centers in the upland areas of Mindoro to service Mangyans who were uncomfortable in going to the lowlands to vote. The historic initiative was responsible for getting about 90% of the Mangyans to participate in the last elections. Finally, the mall registration initiative was successful in getting 500,000 voters to sign up in participating malls nationwide.55 (Please refer to Table 9.)



    2010 2013 2016

    Accessible Polling Place


    4 Voting Centers

    289 Voting Centers

    Legal Assistance None


    14 Regions

    Medical Assistance None None 2,446

    Voting Centers

    Election Related Violence




    Accessibility Audit None None 479

    Mall Regsitration


    None Approximately


    Registrants in 190 Malls

    Table 9. KRA/KPI: Election Services


  • The performance scorecard was a serious attempt by the Commission to benchmark its performance and continuously improve itself. Chairman Bautista believes that only a quantitative evaluation using the aforementioned key areas/indicators can ensure that the Commissions performance would be even better for the next automated elections in 2019. He noted that anyone glancing at the scorecard would immediately know that the COMELEC has done better in 2016 as compared to the past elections.56 Independent election observers and groups from over 50 countries seem to share the same sentiment, particularly with respect to the efficient and smooth management of the 2016 Philippine polls.57

    As a way forward, Chairman Bautista stated that there is an ongoing internal assessment aimed at determining specific and actionable ways and means by which the poll body can further improve. He added that the COMELEC will continue with the consultations and dialogues with stakeholders and push for the necessary electoral reforms, particularly regarding the 1985 Omnibus Election Code. He pointed out that the framers contemplated the Code with manual elections in mind and as such there is a need to modernize the law to make it responsive to the present time.

    Random Manual Audit Results

    The Random Manual Audit Committee reported the Automated Election System 99.9% accurate after months of testing over 700 clustered polling precincts representing legislative districts nationwide.

    The Random Manual Audit Committee composed of the COMELEC, NAMFREL and Philippine Statistics Authority stated that data from 687 precincts show audit counts matched 99.9023 percent accuracy.

    Views from Civil Society

    The National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) deemed the 2016 elections to have been better managed than the preceding two automated polls. It cited the higher rate and faster transmission of results that ultimately reached


  • 96%. NAMFREL likewise noted improvements in the VCM which registered less incidence of ballot-rejection, lower rate of malfunction, and the insignificant number of reported discrepancy between the voters receipt and the actual votes.

    The election watchdog also pointed out the COMELECs initiatives such as the nationally-televised debates and heavy presence of how-to-vote signage in voting centers on Election Day as having enhanced the voters experience.

    The PPCRV commended Commissioner Christian Robert Lim who headed the steering committee. It made mention of the highest and fastest transmission rate of electronic results that the group received from the COMELEC Transparency Server ever since Philippine elections underwent automation in 2010.

    Still, the civil society organizations have identified several issues that have beset the last elections. NAMFREL reported that the COMELEC ignored the law and insisted on using the Machine Digital Signature proposed by Smartmatic, while RA 9369 states that the election returns and certificates of canvass should be digitally signed by the BEI prior to transmission in order for these election reports to be used in proclaiming the winning candidates. For this years elections, the ICT Office (ICTO) of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) expressed their capability in supplying COMELEC with Digital Certificates for signing by the BEIs and the BOCs, yet COMELEC did not push through with it.58

    Corazon Akol, NAMFREL Systems Committee Chair, argued that a lot of questions on transparency and charges on vote manipulation would have been avoided if the Digital Signatures employing both a Public Key and a Private Key were used. With the Public Key, the Public can have access to packets of information transmitted by the VCMs. In addition, accredited stakeholders, given the Encryption Code, can do the data conversion into useful information that they can process. Full transparency can therefore be achieved because access to transmission data will provide the metadata in the transmission log including the unique machine IDs of each of the VCMs, the time of transmission, and the BEIs ID.59

    In the matter of the source code review, some of the reviewers have noted the improvements in the process compared with the past two automated elections. Dr. Pablo Manalastas was of the opinion that the system was secure and would be quite difficult to hack in favor of one candidate. There was still the general sentiment among Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that reviewing the source code was a


  • challenge. One of the common issues raised by the reviewers is that while the COMELEC invited all interested stakeholders to participate, the process was only limited to reading of the codes. Such sentiment needs to be tempered with the greater imperative to safeguard the source code from unauthorized manipulation.

    Lastly, the CSOs had the common observation that the COMELEC website containing the National and Local Elections of 2016 was no longer available to display election day results versus electronically transmitted from all VCMs and CCS nationwide. According to PPCRV IT Director Dr. William Yu, the display would have been a great transparency measure that could be used by different stakeholders in their own assessments of the elections, yet it had been unavailable for quite some time up to the present. Section 33 of RA 9369 states that the COMELEC shall post its digital files in its website for the public to view or download at any time of the day and should maintain the files for at least three years from the date of posting. The unavailability of the said website is therefore a clear violation of the law.60

    Despite the fact that the AES Law does not cover data protection issues, CSOs additionally pointed out that the Comeleak incident compromised the publics trust in the COMELEC and in government agencies holding the citizens sensitive data. This was described as the single biggest problem that the COMELEC has faced. Vital information that should be treated with utmost confidentiality was lost by the Commission. Not only were the information leaked, the COMELEC couldnt bring them back up. A lot of people were dependent on this information, resulting to disenfranchised voters who couldnt find their polling places.61


  • Conclusion

    The general assessment of the 2016 Philippine automated elections is undeniably positive and was far better than the past two automated elections held in 2010 and 2013, nationwide surveys show that the electorate had more confidence in the election system.

    While election stakeholders see the need to improve in some specific aspects of the election process such as the terms of the minimum system requirements stated in the AES Law, these do not detract from the credible and orderly conduct of the 2016 elections.

    The Automated Election System (AES) of the 2016 national and local polls is 99.9% accurate. This is according to the results of the Random Manual Audit of almost 700 clustered polling precincts representing various legislative districts nationwide.

    The Random Manual Audit Committee, composed of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and Philippine Statistics Authority, submitted the results of audit to the COMELEC en banc Tuesday after months of careful testing.

    There are several avenues to be taken to further improve the election system in the country. The COMELEC should explore ways to intensify current efforts and work alongside political parties and civil society organizations to fully utilize social media to reach the youth and encourage their participation in elections. It should capture and publicize data on youth participation in the elections through voter turnout rates. The poll body should also explore methods of online and postal registration and voting to facilitate participation by overseas Filipino citizens.

    The poll body should consider alternative registration procedures for IPs and for PWDs. Enumerators may be sent to their respective areas or residences and online registration may also be extended to PWDs. Similarly, other alternative voting procedures such as a mobile ballot box or postal voting may be provided to IPs from remote areas and for PWDs unable to go to the precinct.

    The COMELEC should reproduce its right and wrong ways to mark a ballot paper poster on laminated sheets to be handed among, and discussed by, voters waiting in line. The agency should also consider appointing a 4th polling official, at least in busier precincts, to mitigate potential bottlenecks in polling.


  • RMA protocols should carefully distinguish between ballot marks not scanned in accordance with VCM settings from outright failure of VCM scanning. The term Digital Signature should be placed in the law, and be defined in an Amendment to the AES Law. The COMELEC should place relevant information on the VVPAT to make it a more effective transparency measure. The Source Code Review should not be limited to only reading the codes but should also allow the use of software tools to test the system. Finally, the poll body should restore the NLE 2016 Results on its website or on a separate one linked to its official website for enhanced transparency and public access.



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    2 Ace, Elections and Technology.3 Pattie, C. J., and R. J. Johnston. Voter turnout and constituency marginality: Geography and rational

    choice. Area 30, no. 1 (1998): 38-48.4 International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Global Measures of Electoral Credibility: Voter

    Participation and Political Finance, September 17, 2014.5 Ace, Elections and Technology.6 UNDP, Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle: A Good Practice Guide. 7 Iyengar, Shanto, and Simon Jackman. Technology and politics: Incentives for youth participation. Vol. 24.

    CIRCLE, 2004.8 Norris, Pippa. Will new technology boost turnout? Evaluating experiments in e-voting v. all-postal voting

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    2013.11 International IDEA, Introducing Electronic Voting: Essential Considerations. International Institute for

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    Foundation for Electoral Systems, March 31, 2008.13 Mala and Pangilinan, History, Structure, Policies, and Processes: Understanding Poll Modernization

    Law, Lumina 22(1), 1-36.14 Schaffer, F., The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University

    Press, 2009.15 Mala and Pangilinan, History, Structure, Policies, and Processes: Understanding Poll Modernization Law.16 Schaffer, F., The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform.17 Calzado, Ramon, Namfrel: 2013 polls peaceful, organized, Manila: Bueza, M., How does the PH automated election system work?. May 15, 2015, Manila: Mala and Pangilinan, History, Structure, Policies, and Processes: Understanding Poll Modernization Law.20 Pulse Asia Research, Inc., Ulat ng Bayan Nationwide Survey on the May 2016 Elections.21 Esmaquel, Paterno II, Comelec: Transmission of votes fastest in 2016, May, 9, 2016, Manila: Yu and Bernardo, NLE 2016 Election Reports, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV),

    May 14, 2016.23 The Carter Center, Statement on the Limited Election Observation Mission to the Philippines, June 2016.24 Bantay Eleksyon 2016, Philippine Election Domestic Observation Mission Final Report, Consortium on

    Electoral Reforms (CER) and Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER), July 30, 2016.25 The Carter Center, Statement on the Limited Election Observation Mission to the Philippines.26 Pulse Asia Research, Inc., Ulat ng Bayan Nationwide Survey on the May 2016 Elections.27 Bantay Eleksyon 2016, Philippine Election Domestic Observation Mission Final Report.28 Pulse Asia Research, Inc., Ulat ng Bayan Nationwide Survey on the May 2016 Elections.29 Maranon, Emil III, Election cheating? VCMs may not be the best way to do it, May 8, 2016, Esmaquel, Paterno II, Comelec on change in hash code: No cheating, May 12, 2016, Manila: Bautista, Andres, Comelec Performance Scorecard (PowerPoint presented at the roundtable discussion

    on the Usage of Technology in Elections, De La Salle University Manila, September 23, 2016).32 Commission on Elections, Updates on the Preparations for the May 2016 Elections, October 21, 2015.33 Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.34 Bersamina and Adel, Comelec records historic 81.62% voter turnout, May 9, 2016, Manila: Esmaquel, Paterno II, Record-breaking: At least 81% of voters join elections, May 9, 2016, Manila: Rappler.




    36 Gotinga, JC, Comelec: Overseas votes fully canvassed, May 15, 2016, Metro Manila: CNN Philippines.37 Aquino, Leslie, Comelec says it performed better in 2016, May 22, 2016, Manila Bulletin.38 Esmaquel, Paterno II, Comelec prints 56.77M ballots in record speed, April 9, 2016, Manila: Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.40 Election Universe, Philippine poll body launches voter education campaign, January 14, 2016.41 Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.42 CNN Philippines, Random manual audit shows accurate poll count, June 10, 2016.43 Bueza, Michael, 2016 elections random manual audit report out soon, May 16, 2016, Manila: CNN Philippines, Comelec: Random manual audit halfway done, shows accurate poll results, May 31,

    2016.45 Bersamina and Adel, Comelec records historic 81.62% voter turnout.46 The Manila Times, Its final: Comelec should issue receipts to voters, March 17, 2016.47 Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.48 Crisostomo, Sheila, New poll voting machines to have audio feature, December 20, 2015, Manila: The

    Philippine Star.49 Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.50 Naval, Gerard, ELECTION 2016: Forget PCOS, Comelec levels up with VCMs, May 2, 2016, Malaya

    Business Insight.51 Crisostomo, Sheila, New poll voting machines to have audio feature.52 Jimeno, Karen, What the source code review is and why it is important to the 2016 elections, February 1,

    2016, Metro Manila: CNN Philippines.53 Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.54 Cruz, RG, Comelec unveils website for poll results, May 8, 2016, Manila: ABS-CBN News.55 Bautista, Comelec Performance Scorecard.56 ABS-CBN News, Comelec chief: 2016 polls relatively more peaceful, orderly, May 10, 2016.57 Aquino, Leslie, Comelec says it performed better in 2016.58 NAMFREL, A Study on the Results of Elections 2016.59 Maricor Akol, Interview, November 3, 2016.60 NAMFREL, A Study on the Results of Elections 2016.61 William Yu, Interview, September 13, 2016.

  • ADR Institute gratefully acknowledges all those who have extended their support, cooperation, and commitment in the development of this project. This publication would not have materialized without their help.

    We are fortunate enough to engage with insightful persons from different sectors, namely: the academe, public and private sectors, as well as civil society organizations, who have shared their expertise and have actively contributed to discussions in various fora.

    We would also like to thank Prof. Victor Andres Dindo Manhit, President of the ADR Institute, for his leadership, vision, and guidance in making this endeavor possible.

    Last but not the least, we would like to thank the following for their hard work and dedication, and for working tirelessly towards the completion of this project:

    Deputy Executive Director for Research, Ms. Angelica Mangahas, and Senior Research Associate, Ms. Weslene Uy, who both served as the editorial staff;

    Our design consultant, Ms. Carol Manhit, for the publication lay-out and cover design;

    And the rest of the ADRi team headed by Executive Director, Atty. Katrina Clemente-Lua, Deputy Executive Director for Programs, Ms. Ma. Claudette Guevara, Program Associate, Ms. Vanesa Lee, and External Affairs and Social Media Associate, Ms. Krystyna Dy.


  • Dr. Francisco A. Magno was elected as President of the Philippine Political Science Association from 2015 to 2017. He previously served as Chair of the Political Science Department and Director of the Social Development Research Center.

    He has conducted teaching and research in several educational institutions, including Florida State University, University of Reading, Waseda University, Hiroshima University, University of Hawaii, University of the Philippines, and St. Scholasticas College.

    He is the President of the Local Governance Training Institutes-Philippine Network from 2016 to 2019. He is also a Member of the Board of Trustees of the ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies.

    He finished his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii. He received an Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology of the Philippines in 2000.

    Danica Ella Panelo is a Research Assistant at the Philippine Political Science Association. She previously worked as a Researcher at Eximius Services, Inc. and the Center for People Empowerment in Governance. She is a B.A. in Political Science (cum laude) graduate from the University of the Philippines - Manila and is currently enrolled in the M.A. in Development Policy Program at De La Salle University.