Know how they will cheat
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-04-29
We must commend and support the efforts of citizens who invest time and money to form election watchdog groups. But it is one thing to organize a watchdog group and quite another to make sure that the authentic vote count is preserved.

Many foreign observers have been lured into believing that elections here were clean and fair simply because they have no idea how the cheating mechanism works.

Here is a list of the most common cheating operations that occur during elections: Misuse of unused ballots and election returns
Cheating happens way ahead of Election Day. Watchdog groups should witness and account for ballots and election returns — the accountable forms — delivered at the provincial level before these are distributed to the various municipalities. There are two sets of ballots and election returns which can be used for cheating:

1. Extra ballots and election returns intended to cover for spoilage — Comelec (Commission on Elections) provides 10% more ballots and corresponding election returns than the number of voters in a given precinct to cover for spoilage

2. Leftover ballots and election returns — If voter turnout for a precinct is only 85%, there will be 15% unused ballots and the corresponding number of election returns.

These unused ballots and election returns will be fodder for the cheat machine. It is important to have an accounting of the serial numbers of ballots and election returns that had either been unused or were provided to cover for spoilage before and after the voting.

In the municipal level, keep an eye on the Municipal Treasurer who is usually the co-conspirator of the incumbent mayor in vote-padding. Preventive cheating
One way to cheat is to prevent from voting those who are likely to vote for the opponent. These are the usual methods:

1. The missing voters list. This happens in voting precincts when a page of the 3-page voters list (representing a third or 33% of voters in a given precinct of a known bailiwick of the opponent) is stolen. Voters will end up searching in vain for their precincts and most of them end up failing to vote.

2. The scrambled voters list. In a polling place with several precincts, the cheaters may scramble the voting precincts to confuse the voters. One who is assigned to vote in precinct 10-A may actually find his name listed in precinct 10-D.

3. Buying and marking. Voters for the other candidate will be paid to mark their fingers with indelible ink to disqualify them from voting.

The watchdog group must always have a true voters list of their assigned polling place so that they can guide voters who have been victimized by preventive cheating. Vote enhancing
Watch out for the Kadena-de-amor (love chain) mode of cheating. A voter is paid to keep his ballot blank and instead, he is to submit a pre-accomplished ballot in the box. This pre-accomplished ballot came from the unused ballots or ballots meant to cover for spoilage. The same voter is to hand over the ballot he had left blank so that this can be duly accomplished and dropped by the next voter who is in on the scheme. This process goes on for up to eight voters in every precinct, potentially adding as much as 10% fraudulent votes in a given polling place. Wholesale cheating
Wholesale cheating is what should concern watchdog groups the most. This is the cheating that sums up to tens of thousands of added votes, even millions. It happens with the connivance of the very people entrusted to safeguard the election process.

Watch closely those people manning the Board of Election Canvassers — the Comelec Election Officer, the Municipal Treasurer and the DECS Supervisor. They proclaim the local election winners — the mayors, vice mayors and councilors and are the ones who are known to facilitate wholesale cheating.

Watch for dagdag-lipat which transfers the votes of a candidate to the candidate who is financing the cheating. Watch for hocus pocus in the preparation of the Certificate of Canvass (CoC). The cheating has shifted from ballot box snatching in the 20th century to CoC tampering in the 21st century. The 1992 Sulo Hotel Operations and the 2004 Garci Operations centered on doctored CoCs.

Another wholesale cheating operation happens at the Provincial Level of canvassing. The winners for the gubernatorial, board members and congressional elections are proclaimed in the provincial level. Senate winners are proclaimed by Congress.

What is disgusting is that the worst forms of cheating are accomplished with the connivance of Comelec personnel. The next congress should place higher penalties for Comelec personnel who are linked to cheating operations. It must impose life imprisonment, no less, for treachery to duty and the sabotaging the people’s judgment.

Cheating has become so pervasive that I now hear of election winners who consider paying cheating operators millions just to ensure their hard-earned victory. Before, only those who knew that they will lose would shelve out big money to reverse the judgment of the voters.

Over lunch with common friends in 1999, I asked the brother of Joseph Estrada, Jesse Ejercito, why they needed to hire this notorious election operator in 1998 when we all knew then that Estrada was going to be a hands down winner. His answer was: "We got him for insurance so the other side cannot hire him."

I am of course not a bit surprised that the election operator is now also with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and holding a cabinet rank.

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