Automated Elections: Roughly the Same Thing Happened In Venezuela

I can’t help but to turn my TV on during GMA and ABS-CBN’s coverage of the 2010 Elections and watch it until midnight. Let us not focus on the way the reporters presented their news but look at the equipments they used in relaying the message to the public. Honestly speaking, it was impressive. What I thought to be ABS-CBN’s “original” augmented 3-D technology featured in one of the reports of TV Patrol was also in the larger and more sophisticated GMA Network Studio. In turn, GMA’s “hologram effect” which was run with personalities from the showbiz world, politics,  to the pageant world (with Maria Venus Raj standing) was also present in the election coverage of ABS-CBN —  though theirs wasn’t that satisfying. Not to mention the touch screen panels, the Twitter and Facebook feeds, and the studio structured after the CNN’s, it was a wild race.

Wild was then the wor(l)d. Wild crowds yelling ‘what the hell is going on?!’ on precincts, wild politicians bombing polling places, and wild commentators like Mareng Winnie Monsod. It was around 10:30 in the evening (I hope I got it correctly) when she, together with Mel Tiangco, Mike Enriquez, and Christian Monsod (another Monsod), were discussing about the credibility of the 2010 elections. That time, more than 50 % of the votes in various polling precincts have been transmitted and were coming in PPCRV stations and Comelec. Everybody was in an awe-struck mood. Even the media seemed so bewildered about the quick count. One of the newscasters even said it was so unbelievable to see the towering figures that were expected to appear yet in the following days. Aquino got millions. Binay, being the top contender, added to the shock.

It was one of those rare times that I was Mike Enriquez with a big smile, and Mel Tiangco in a ‘coffee table’ conversation with their guests, with her sways and giggles.

“No matter how disappointing (for some) the election results are, one thing is for sure: that most have finally developed that sense of responsibility and openness to change. The success of the automated elections have proven that the clamor has been heard. No one can accomplish things all at the same time. He must do it one step at a time. That single step, we have succeeded.”

That was my status on Facebook the next day.

The Turning Point. When everything appeared to be going smoothly, a ‘whistle blower’ in the alias and ‘face’ of  a  Koala bear orchestrated himself to the public telling them that there were frauds in the first automated elections in the Philippines. That would make Christian Monsod, former Comelec Chair, wrong when he said during the elections that the automation would be hacker-free.

Many believed the Koala who ignited the whole scenario. The protesters and complainants stood after hearing the alleged fraud from him. They were, the losers in the elections. Hearings then were conducted with blasts of anger, agitation, pinpointing, blaming, and laughter too — with one defeated candidate in what was deemed “illegal” possession of a compact flash card. Her evidence, she said.

Now, the ideal proclamation of the president on June 5 would have to be moved on a more realistic date, June 15, 15 days before the president’s inauguration.

The law-making bodies then has to conduct a probe on the alleged fraud.

The people then has to place a doubt on the votes they cast and dismantle the warm Congratulations of the PCOS machine.

The country then would have to suspend its optimism.

What, Who Really Is Smartmatic. Let’s background check on this entity. If Smartmatic company would be turned into a battered wife, she might be dead by now.

“Sequoia merged with Smartmatic, a Venezuelan shell company in March 2005, to provide a computer voting machine system that was responsible for Chicago’s seriously flawed and chaotic primary election on March 21,” a column by Carmen Pedrosa from philstar.com said.

Smartmatic is a multinational corporation founded in 2000 that specializes in technology solutions. It has been contracted by Venezuela and some states in the United States in a similar case – automated elections.

Cesar Flores stands as the president of Smartmatic in the Asia-Pacific region. We have seen him a lot of times on TV (beside Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal). He is a Venezuelan national.

Venezuela and the Philippines. It is so interesting to note that the Philippines and Venezuela have many things in common. They are both tropical countries. They were both colonized by Spain, only they were freed on different years. They are both included in Kofi Annan’s classification of a developing country. Venezuela was ranked 27th in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the CIA World Factbook 2009. Philippines was ranked 47th.  Not too distant. And, not to mention one absurd intersection– both countries are highly competitive in beauty pageants.

Venezuela In Poverty

However, they is one intriguing commonality. Despite a much higher GDP for the former, Transparency International, a group that measures corruption among countries, ranked Venezuela 131st with a score of 2.3. The Philippines, on the other hand, has a score of 2.5 (higher by 0.2 points). Scores are from 0-10, 0 being the most corrupt and 10 the least.

One thing that hugely contributed to the corruption in Venezuela is the oil and petroleum deposits found in the region many parts of the world rely on. It has raised a lot of political issues and conspiracies.

Venezuela’s incumbent president Hugo Chavez who has been in power since 1999 has also been the center of intrigues and controversies. BBC has reported that from an 80% popularity rate, it slid down to 30%.  He has been accused of corruption, mismanagement, and abuse of power.

Venezuela 2004 Vote. In 2004, roughly six years ago, Venezuela has contracted the same company, Smartmatic, on its historic push on its first ever touch screen voting. As compared to the 2010 Philippine elections, it was a less tedious one. The vote focused solely on a referendum asking the voters whether Hugo Chavez should or should not be recalled to office. The machine only offered a YES ans a NO, two options. People touch the screen to determine their vote. 59% voted in favor of Chavez. But, the opposition protested because of an alleged election fraud.

After the voting process which, in the most coincidental manner, was extended for four hours due to long queues and machine failures, the results were declared in favor of Chavez.

However, on the same date, August 15, it was  announced on national television an audio CD was found with the voice of the National Electoral Council (NEC) chief declaring the success of the opposition and therefore, stating fraud in the polls. The chief of the the NEC has denied the allegation saying it was a black propaganda against him and the government.

Sumate, an anti-Chavez NGO then conducted an exit poll with an American firm and the results further pounded on the fraud. It showed Chavez losing the opposite percentage as the polling results were.

Former US president Jimmy Carter himself was a supporter of Chavez. He said Súmate “deliberately distributed this erroneous exit poll data in order to build up, not only the expectation of victory, but also to influence the people still standing in line.”

Not only the Venezuelan elections cried fraud with Smartmatic but also the elections hosted by the similar firm in Chicago in 2006 (?).

“The company (Smartmatic) is associated with the corrupt policies of the government of Venezuela,” alderman Beaver said.

Meanwhile, alderman Ed Burke also stated, “We’ve stumbled across what could be the international conspiracy to subvert the electoral process in the United States of America.” He said why would they trust a company that has been beknownst to electoral fraud and anomalies.

***
Now, as different sectors probe for a possible cheating in the May 2010 elections, the first automated elections in the country, many are behind them. Those are the candidates who did not lose, but where “cheated” in the elections. Nobody loses, only they are cheated. Andres Bonifacio in the Tejeros Convention in the 1800’s had the similar case – he cried for fraud.

Absurdly, we may notice that some of the politicians complaining about the elections today are those who won in the previous elections who were thrown of allegations that they cheated their opponents. Well, things change.

***

Probably a nice conclusion to this article will be a line by evolutionist Charles Darwin.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

(I edited this article once again trying to remember the ideas in the last few paragraphs because when I opened it one day, I noticed it was cut. I didn’t know who did it, or it was a malfunction. I apologize for the interrupted reading by those who have visited this site.)

Sources:

USA News Online

BBC News Online

Associated Press

CNN Online

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