National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)

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DOH and NAMFREL renew commitment to transparency through the Medicine Monitoring Project

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PRESS STATEMENT
August 9, 2010

The Department of Health, through Honorable Secretary Enrique T. Ona, and NAMFREL, through its National Chairperson Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., signed today, August 9, 2010, a Memorandum of Agreement renewing their collaboration on the Medicine Monitoring Project (MMP). This is in line with the DOH’s commitment to directly engage civil society organizations in upholding transparency in the procurement, delivery, and inventory of pharmaceutical products, supplies, equipment and infrastructure projects of the Department.

Through the MOA, DOH officially designates NAMFREL through the Coalition Against Corruption Program (CACP) as one of the two observers in the composition of the Bids and Awards Committee of the DOH and all its retained hospitals and regional offices that will monitor the agency’s procurement and delivery activities. The DOH will also make available for interviews all of its personnel concerned with the programs to be monitored, as well as provide all relevant information to the NAMFREL Project Team. NAMFREL in turn will mobilize its volunteers in the areas concerned, develop and provide training in the use of the monitoring tools and framework, strictly monitor the DOH’s procurement activities, and present the findings of the monitoring to the public.

The partnership of NAMFREL and DOH started in 2004, when then-Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit and NAMFREL founding chairman Jose S. Concepcion, Jr., signed a commitment of support and agreement for the MMP. The partnership was renewed in 2006, when then- Health Secretary Francisco Duque re-confirmed the DOH’s commitment and support to the initiative of NAMFREL.

In 2005, over 1.7 billion pesos worth of DOH procurement items and services were successfully monitored under MMP. In 2006, after NAMFREL reported that there were hospitals that published incomplete bid ads, DOH issued an order to all hospitals and health offices to observe the provisions in the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003. In the same year, after the discovery by NAMFREL volunteers of unadvertised procurement worth P11 million, the DOH, through its Integrity Development Committee (IDC), halted the said procurement and the bidding was declared a failure. The following year, volunteers endorsed a case of procurement irregularities to the office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas (the case remains active).

Due to its commitment to uphold transparency in its operations, the Department of Health has consistently ranked as the least corrupt agency in the Philippine government.

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Written by namfrel

August 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

NAMFREL Statement on 2010 Elections

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Written by namfrel

May 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm

NAMFREL urges COMELEC to finish count

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The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) expresses its concern over the slowdown of the vote count and urges the COMELEC to complete the count. The count has been at a virtual standstill at slightly over 90% of the Election Returns tabulated by COMELEC and PPCRV servers, up marginally from 89% last Wednesday, May 12. The remaining Election Returns represent 7,500 PCOS machines and an estimated 4.9 million votes. The 7,500 PCOS machines have not transmitted results or have bogged down in its operations. For those which have failed to transmit results, their election returns should immediately be collected and tabulated since at least eight copies of the returns may have been printed already. For the rest of the machines, COMELEC and Smartmatic must immediately make a report to the public as to the status and locations of these PCOS machines and the steps being undertaken to count the remaining uncounted ballots.

At the same time, COMELEC and Smartmatic must make a report to the public on the use of the spare PCOS machines as well as a complete inventory of all CF cards, including those recalled and replaced or reconfigured. COMELEC must also not destroy any of the CF cards nor delete records from the canvassing process so that all files can be properly analyzed.

The vote counting and canvassing remains unfinished business which must be completed at the soonest possible time in a manner which reflects the true will of the people.

Download the statement HERE

Written by namfrel

May 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

OBSERVATIONS ON THE MAY 10, 2010 ELECTIONS

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The 2010 Elections was a celebration of democracy by our people. By their patience and exuberance in a new process, and by the doggedness and resourcefulness of the teachers and the commitment of the COMELEC to make it work, elections did work. The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections commends all those who played a role in the administration and conduct of the May 10, 2010 elections, most especially the teachers who served as Boards of Election Inspectors and the voters who endured difficulties and inconveniences but nonetheless accepted and the new automated system. On the whole, the new process of voting in an automated election system worked better than most people’s expectations.

The most dramatic improvement in the elections was in the counting and tabulating of votes, which occurred at unprecedented speeds for Philippine elections. Early tabulations were available within hours of the polls’ closing and significant numbers were reported by midnight of election day.

The second most dramatic change in the political scene came perhaps in the change of behavior of losing candidates. In prior elections, losing candidates rarely, if ever, conceded defeat. In this election, losing Presidential candidates quickly conceded their loss within 48 hours of elections, thereby reducing political tension and contributing to the public acceptance of results. This is a significant change in the Philippine political scene.

Although long queues – as long as four hours or more in many places — were seen throughout the day and some confusion arose from the inconsistent implementation of voting procedures, these appeared to have no material effect on people’s participation in the elections. Voter turnouts remained high, although lower than other election years, perhaps as a result of some people opting to go home after waiting in lines for some stretch of time. There were also reports of voters who were not able to locate their names on certified voters lists or who were not able to determine their precinct assignments.

Nonetheless, we wish to state our concerns and recommendations on a number of matters in the spirit of constructive observation in the hope that steps will be taken to further improve the system :

– Though not directly related to the election automation program, various incidents of election-related violence, vote-buying, flying voters, and underage voting were reported in different parts of the country. There were also some cases of failure of elections in scattered localities in the Visayas and Mindanao due to non-delivery or mis-delivery of election items or due to local disturbances. As already stated, the long queues at voting centers may have also discouraged some voters from exercising their right to vote. These are matters of concern to all of us because disenfranchisement is a violation of a voter’s rights and more progress must be made in the coming years to further minimize these occurrences.

– There was little or no secrecy in the filling up of ballots and inserting of ballots in PCOS machines. The length of the ballot, the close proximity to voters lining up to receive the ballots, and the size of the “secrecy” folder, and the method of inserting ballots into the PCOS machine with pollwatchers standing beside voters did not lend itself to any confidentiality of a person’s vote. This is an aspect which must be closely looked into and remedied in future elections.
 
– The pace of counting and canvassing has considerably slowed after the burst of speed seen in the first 24 to 48 hours after elections. Given that enough time has lapsed for all other remaining digital counts to have been completed and for election returns to have been picked up, it will be important for the public to receive a full report on this, especially as this may have material effect in tight races. With the counts still pending at 89% as of mid-day of May 13, we estimate that some 8,000 PCOS machines had not yet transmitted their results for a variety of reasons. We recommend that a full report be given on the status of these machines and their results and that these areas be included in the Random Manual Audit. Moreover, canvassing still needs to be completed and reports submitted from many areas across the country.

– Because of the replacement of CF cards one week before elections and the occurrence of some erroneously transmitted reports, we recommend that the COMELEC not destroy any of the recalled cards nor delete any of the erroneously transmitted reports from canvassing system laptops. Under Section 27 of RA 9369, a complete review of the Automated Election System needs to be undertaken and we feel this review should include the recalled and replaced CF cards and all reports submitted for canvass.

– The Random Manual Audits (RMA) must be completed at the soonest possible time. Although RMA requires several steps, including an analysis of the root causes of any discrepancy between machine and manual counts, the COMELEC must nonetheless report to the public where these audits are taking place and what their status are. Although NAMFREL was not an accredited citizens arm for the random manual audit inspite of the presence of two retired chairpersons from the country’s two largest audit firms on its national council, NAMFREL witnessed some random manual audits in Metro Manila, particularly in San Juan and Quezon City. Our main observations were that no other observers were present for the entire process, either from the accredited citizens arm or political parties. While minor differences were found in votes counted for some candidates between the machine and manual counts, it must be noted that in at least two instances, PCOS machine counts recorded more ballots counted than there were in the ballot box. In both instances, while differences were small, they exceeded the 99.995% accuracy guaranteed by the supplier. The implementation of random manual audits remains one of the unfinished tasks of this election and an area for improvement in future elections. The raffle of precincts per Congressional district which were to be randomly selected for the manual audit was done at mid-day of election day which gave the COMELEC more than enough time to select the “clean” precincts. The raffle should have been done about two to three hours prior to closing of the polls. It must be noted that the check of hash codes per machine against the original hash codes stored in Bangko Sentral files also still needs to be completed. A full report of the audits for this election should be of help in identifying potential problem areas in the system.

– The COMELEC committed that the AES would make available to the public data which individuals could access on a precinct basis and tabulate on their own. However, neither the database of the project of precincts (or full precinct list) with the COMELEC, Smartmatic, and the accredited citizens arm nor the public website make this possible. The clustered precinct identification numbers in the database were set in such a way as to make searches and comparisons against encoded Election Returns difficult. While numbers have been assigned to each clustered precinct, it is difficult to immediately determine the locations of each precinct and the PCOS ID numbers assigned to them which would have enabled individuals, political parties, and other interested watchers to monitor the election results. Likewise, the public websites merely listed precinct data but in a manner which could not be tabulated as originally promised.

– The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao continues to present challenges to the electoral process. We had already pointed out the potential for problems and issues, starting with the voters lists which indicated large increases in numbers of registered voters from 2007 to 2010. (Note : COMELEC records indicated a 42% increase in ARMM and 83% increase in Lanao del Sur). Moreover, the area has had a history of vote-buying, election-related violence, flying and underage voters, and vote count manipulation. In this regard, we had earlier recommended that elections be held separately and in advance in ARMM using the AES system. This would have served as both a pilot test of the system as well as a means of minimizing any other election-related risks as all COMELEC resources and attention could have been brought to bear on the region. However, new legislation is required for this. The incoming Congress should seriously consider such an approach.
 

While it is tempting to defer action on these recommendations, it is worth noting that not all tasks for May 10 have been completed yet and that the next ARMM election (for ARMM regional government) is scheduled August 2011. Presumably, the AES will be used for that election.
 
NAMFREL will continue to process the numerous incident reports it has received from all across the country and will run a comparison of its election return data against publicly available data for further analysis. A full report of all incidents reported will be made once all reports are processed.
 
In sum, the country has had a successful election. We look forward and hope for the successful conclusion of the canvassing process and proclamation. Many lessons have been learned from this exercise and it is our hope that these lessons will be processed to improve the system.

Download the statement HERE

Written by namfrel

May 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS INCREASED BY 12.7% FROM LAST ELECTIONS – Largest increase of 42% since 2007 elections is recorded in ARMM

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The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) reported today that the number of registered voters reported by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) increased by 12.65% from the 45.03 million registered in the 2007 elections to the 50.74 million registered for the May 2010 elections. There were 43.44 million voters registered in the 2004 elections, giving the 2007 elections a 3.43% increase over 2004. 
 
Applying the National Census and Statistics Board annual average population growth rate of 1.95 % (working figure for the years 2005 – 2010), the reasonable increase in the growth in number of registered voters over a three year period should be around 6 to 8 %.
 
NAMFREL’s Bantay ng Bayan project undertook the research based on the COMELEC’s own Voter Registration Data for election years 2004, 2007, and 2010. The data included voters covered in the voter registration extension period for December 21-23, 28 and 29, 2009.
 
The significant difference in increases between number of registered voters and population would seem to indicate a large number of multiple registrants or that the voters lists have not been completely cleaned up by the COMELEC. NAMFREL estimates that the over-listing may run to an estimated three million names, assuming that the 2007 list was an accurate, cleaned up list.
 
Notably, the region with the highest increase from 2007 to 2010 — 42% — was the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, where the “Hello Garci” controversy was centered in the 2004 elections, and which remains unresolved. Every province in ARMM recorded an increase higher than the national average. Maguindanao province alone registered an increase in number of registered voters of 82% from the 2007 to the 2010 elections, following a 21% drop from the 2004 to 2007 elections.
 
ARMM recorded marked increases in number of voters from 2004 to 2007 to 2010, surpassing the national average increase in 2007 and 2010. 
 
The region with the lowest increase from 2007 to 2010 was Region VI in the Visayas, with a jump of 7.6% (below the national average).
 
Metro Manila or the National Capital Region recorded the second lowest increase of 7.83%, although different cities in the NCR exhibited wide ranges in change. The cities of Malabon, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Paranaque, San Juan, and Taguig all recorded increases of ranging from 20,81% to 29.56%. Pateros recorded a decrease of 13.54%. It is not clear whether changes in voter registration population were a reflection of cleaning of the voters lists or of internal migration among cities and with other parts of the country.

Download the statement HERE

Written by namfrel

April 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

NAMFREL EXPRESSES CONCERN WITH REMOVAL OF SECURITY PROVISIONS – Many safeguard provisions of election automation law are disabled or delayed

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The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections or NAMFREL has once again expressed its concern over the disablement or delay of certain safeguard provisions which were originally written into the election automation law.

Wrong ultraviolet ink. Among the latest issues to be disclosed by the COMELEC was the use of the wrong ultraviolet ink in the printing of the ballots to be used on May 10. Originally, ultraviolet ink was supposed to be used as a security mark on the ballot so that the automated counting machines could detect a real ballot from a fake one when ballots were fed into the machine.  COMELEC belatedly disclosed that the wrong ink had been used in the printing process but only after a large number of ballots had already been printed. It has since announced that the UV sensors in the machines would be disabled but then added that Boards of Election Inspectors would be equipped with portable, hand-held UV lights which they would use to sweep over ballots to check for the ink. The portable lights were not included in the original budget of the project and their use now adds an extra step in a new process which BEI are only beginning to learn. It is not clear how hand-held ultraviolet lights will deter ballot fraud since they will presumably detect any type of ultraviolet ink and not necessarily just the ink originally specified for the ballot printing.
 
Digital signatures removed. Aside from the problems with ultraviolet ink, the COMELEC has also removed a provision for digital signatures. In the original law (RA 9369), Sections 19 and 20 required that election returns and certificates of canvass be digitally signed by members of the Boards of Election Inspectors. The COMELEC’s own General Instructions to BEI dated December 29, 2009 (COMELEC Resolution No. 8739) required digital signatures from the BEI by inserting an iButton security key into a security key receptacle in the machine. This would presumably prevent unauthorized transmissions plus allow authorities to trace back who exactly was transmitting from specific locations and machines. The COMELEC has now removed that digital signature provision.  On March 4, 2010, COMELEC released a revised General Instruction (COMELEC Resolution No. 8786) instructing BEI to forego with the digital signatures.

Source code review withheld. Under the law, the COMELEC was supposed to make the source code of the technology available and open to review. Without a thorough review, it will not be possible to determine whether the various sets of instructions throughout the system correctly and accurately reflect the results and are not vulnerable to third-party instructions to introduce codes designed to manipulate vote counts or vote consolidation.
 
Random manual audit rules not yet out. With elections now just over 30 days away, the COMELEC has yet to release its guidelines for the Random Manual Audit required by law. NAMFREL, AES, and other pollwatching groups have advocated wider coverage of the Random Manual Audit as well as its conduct prior to proclamation of winners. Given the newness of the system and the fact that is generally untested over such a large voting population, NAMFREL and others have advocated the importance of random audits and parallel runs over significantly-sized samples, larger than that provided by the law. Given numerous delays and the lifting of so many safeguards, it becomes doubly more important that a transparent audit process be pursued.

No review of back-up or disaster recovery processes. There has been, to our knowledge, no public review of the back-up or disaster recovery processes for the PCOS machines or the different levels of the canvass. If the main software or systems or any of its components fail for any reason, the back-up systems will be resorted to. These back-up systems have not been given a thorough review to check for any vulnerabilities to fraud.
 
Additional safeguard measures continue to remain under close watch by NAMFREL and periodic reports will be released as assessments are completed.

Download the statement HERE

Written by namfrel

April 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm

THE CVL IS ONE OF THE WEAK LINKS IN THE 2010 ELECTIONS

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The reliability of voters’ lists is a persistent problem in past elections. NAMFREL has long advocated the need for a clean, accurate complete, and current Certified Voters List,(CVL) because a reliable CVL is the “guardian” of the “one person, one vote” election principle. A clean CVL has no duplicate names or multiple registrants or ineligible persons on the list such as minors and deceased persons. NAMFREL has also advocated that such a list should be made public and accessible to all voters and interested parties.
 
While COMELEC has stated that the CVLs are available to the public and interested groups, it is available for a fee for those who want to secure copies like NAMFREL. The election watchdog’s local coordinators were quoted fees ranging from P 15.00 to P 75.00 per precint to be able to secure copies for it to have the documents for its election monitoring task . If NAMFREL was to pay P15 per precinct to photocopy the CVLs nationwide, it will need approximately P5.0 million for all unclustered precincts.
 
According to NAMFREL Secretary-General Eric Alvia, random inspections by its Bantay ng Bayan teams in different parts of the country show that CVLs continue to contain errors. One such flaw are 36 voters with identical names in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro and 10 names which have different middle names or spelling in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. Another flaw are names of deceased persons still appearing in the voter rolls in Sugpon (5 names) and Sta Lucia (5 names), both in Ilocos Sur, and in Mandaluyong (6 names). Still another flaw is the questionable number of centenarian voters in certain towns, among others in Mandaluyong which has 187 voters who are at least 100 years old.
 
The COMELEC’s Education and Information Department itself has identified almost 705,000 multiple registrants across the country and has bundled these under a “Watch List.”

The COMELEC should view NAMFREL as a co-operator rather than an adversary.  NAMFREL’s findings should help COMELEC identify the problem areas and do whatever is necessary to clean up the list where problems have been spotted.  The COMELEC can look at the NAMFREL volunteers as its grassroots organization and give credence to its findings.  We can assume that their common mission is to clean up the certified voters list so that the NAMFREL inputs should enable the COMELEC to target the area where priority should be given.
 
To address the issue of multiple registrants, NAMFREL advises the use of genuine indelible ink to ensure that persons vote only once in spite of possible multiple registrations.
 
NAMFREL Bantay ng Bayan volunteers also reported that names of persons who registered during the voter registration extension period in December 2009 were not included in CVLs posted in Valenzuela, Taguig, Las Pinas, Pasay, Muntinlupa and in the province of Palawan. COMELEC officials there said that “Supplemental Lists” containing names of late registrants were still being prepared for posting. It is hoped that COMELEC shall incorporate the names in the Supplemental List with the CVLs so that the Board of Election Inspectors will not have to check two different lists on election day.

Download the statement HERE

Written by namfrel

April 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm