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Nueva Ecija case shows PCOS vulnerability.

January 15, 2015

1GAPAN CITY—A case decided in a Nueva Ecija court is offering evidence that precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines could yield inaccurate results.

The court, in a March 2014 decision, sided with a group of voters who asked for a manual recount of votes cast for Bro. Eddie Villanueva, who ran and lost in the 2013 senatorial elections, in three clustered precincts in General Tinio town. The recount showed that the votes received by Villanueva were short by 119.

In his ruling, Judge Celso Baguio of the Regional Trial Court Branch 34, said “obviously, the [PCOS] machines counts fell short.”

The General Tinio case came to light again as advocates for clean elections questioned the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec)

approval of a contract with Smartmatic for refurbishing of the PCOS machines.

Former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman, an information technology expert and one of the leaders of the election watchdog Automated Election System (AES), said recently that the PCOS machines “can be manipulated by expert technicians.”

In the General Tinio case, complainants Bernardo Aranas and Arlan Esteban and their lawyer, Anicia Concepcion Marquez, sought the opening of ballot boxes in Clustered Precinct Nos. 29 and 30 in Barangay Pias and Clustered Precinct No. 19 in Barangay Concepcion after the May 2013 elections. They wanted to prove that votes cast for Villanueva were not counted properly.

They said they were dismayed when Villanueva received only 379 votes in one precinct and another 379 votes in two other precincts.

They launched a series of public consultations because, they said, they doubted the results of the count and to validate their belief that the results from the PCOS machines did not reflect the true will of the voters.

At the end of the consultations, they affirmed that the number of votes for Villanueva was “far greater than the number of votes that came out of the clustered precincts in question.”

In the ensuing manual counting, witnessed by the municipal election officer of General Tinio and the provincial election officer of Nueva Ecija, the vote totals differed from those of the PCOS machine count.

In Precinct No. 30, the PCOS machine count was 219 while the manual count was 226; in Precinct No. 29, the machine count was 284 while the manual count was 295; and in Precinct No. 19, the machine count was 278 while the manual count was 379.

“In all, the manual counting yielded 119 additional votes for candidate Villanueva,” Baguio said in his decision.

Anselmo Roque

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