Random Manual Audit in Manila

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.3, No.2
by Mark Lester D. Toribio, Chairperson, NAMFREL-Manila
Monitoring the conduct of the Random Manual Audit was one of the important projects conducted by Namfrel in the May elections, to help assess the accuracy of the count of the PCOS machines. The RMA is one of the safeguards under RA 9369 (Election Automation Law), the main purpose of which is to validate the accuracy of the machine count and ensure the integrity and acceptability of the automated election results. Manual auditing of the ballots requires great effort and speed on the part of the BEIs and the random manual audit team (RMAT) since the process of conducting the manual audit starts only after the votes have been transmitted (as per instruction), with the counting of the ballots done manually. ..
.... .... Random manual audit monitoring observations in Manila

The process started late. The Random Manual Audit proceeding in 6 (six) districts of Manila started late because of the delay in transmission, particularly to the KBP server. Given such dilemma the audit process was delayed and the working hours were prolonged.

In District 4 (Esteban Abada High School) the transmission did not occur because the PCOS Machines were not functioning. The RMAT skipped the process and directly proceeded to conduct the RMA. According to the chairman of the RMAT, this was done upon the advice of the election officer. NAMFREL volunteers did not have a chance to verify this advice because based on the guidelines they could not intervene or express any opinion.

Lack of interest of Stakeholders. Only NAMFREL-Manila Volunteers were present as observers during the entire auditing process. No political watchers or other Citizen’s Arm volunteers were present. According to the guidelines: The Random Manual Audit shall be conducted in the presence of Poll Watchers, Political Parties, Citizen's Arm Groups, Media and the Public.

Lack of information for candidates and supporters which resulted to conflict and tension. In District 4, before the Random Manual Audit was conducted in Esteban Abada High School, tension occurred between political party watchers and the BEI. The watchers wanted to include councilors in the manual counting. In the presence of the PNP and the school principal, the RMAT team showed the guidelines to the watchers, which state that “In no way shall the results of the RMA delay the proclamation of the winning candidates based on the results reached by the AES.” The poll watchers left the school after being shown the guidelines, leaving only two NAMFREL volunteers to observe the process.

Lack of supervision from COMELEC. During the entire proceedings of the random manual audit, no Comelec officials or representatives visited the polling place. Comelec did not even provide food or snacks for the RMAT; Namfrel-Manila voluntarily bought food and drinks for the members of the RMAT particularly in Districts 1, 3, 4 and 5.
Tedious process; lack of substitute member. Random Manual Audit Teams did not follow their functions based on their designation. They shifted tasks; they did not have substitute members. For this reason, RMAT were tempted to fast track the process for convenience, but because NAMFREL observers were present during the audit process they could not do so.

Process hastened, results of the tally adjusted. In Manuel Araullo High School, the aggregate variance indicated in the RMA Report/Minutes was only 4. However, NAMFREL-Manila volunteers reported that the RMA BEI adjusted the manual tally results for each candidate whenever there is a difference with the corresponding AES results, to make them equal. Based on our calculations, the real aggregate variance easily exceeded 10. According to the RMAT, the variance could have been caused by their error in tallying manually. Thus, they saw it justifiable to adjust the results of the manual tally and make them
conform to the AES tally.
The Random Manual Audit was conceptualized as one of the safeguards of the automated election, to assure the public that the results of the automated election is truly reflective of the people’s will as expressed in their ballots during election day. It serves as an internal check and barometer on how accurately the PCOS machines counted our votes. This is indeed very important in assuring the public, most especially the candidates who lost in the count by only a minimal number of votes, that the election was fair, honest and credible. We commend the Comelec for instituting this measure, as well as the efforts of the teachers who served as members of the RMAT who worked tirelessly overnight after the elections.

However, while the Comelec and the Random Manual Audit teams certify that the outcome of the RMA validates the results of the 2013 elections with 99.9747% reliability, and NSO claims that the variance was minimal to affect election results, several issues and problems concerning procedures however need to be addressed in order for RMA to better serve its purpose especially for the coming 2016 National elections. The claims of the Commission may be valid based on official figures submitted from the field; however, the circumstances and issues on how these figures were generated may be an entirely different story.

NAMFREL-Manila would like to recognize the efforts of the chapters' different NAMFREL RMA monitoring teams in the following areas:
District 1- Tondo Brgy 70 253AB, 254AB   Manuel L. Quezon E.S.
District 2- Tondo Brgy 202A 809A,810AB, 811A Felipe Calderon E.S.
District 3- Santa Cruz Brgy 329 1521A, 1522A, 1523A
1524A, 1525A
Antonio Regidor E.S.
District 4- Sampaloc Brgy 484 2272AB, 2273AC Esteban Abada H.S.
District 5- Paco Brgy 664A 2673AB Manuel Araullo H.S.
District 6- Paco Brgy 830 3361ABCD Carlos Garcia H.S.
District 1: Chairman: Dex Toribio,
Members: Cris Caballero, Alex Tolentino
District 2: Chairman: Helen Parraggua
Members: Lav Gutierrez, Jon Toribio
District 3: Chairman: Lec Toribio
Members: Ren Romero, Laila Cuadernal, Charlie Gaw, Jason Alacapa, Serge Aclan, Caloy Melad, Joel Dayrit, Carlo Galarrita
District 4: Chairman: Albert Oasan
Member: Ann Mauricio, May Estrada, Noel Bernardo, Reiner Tamayo
District 5: Chairman: Chino Adasa
Member: Marvin Tio, Ralph Tan, Ryan Cancio
District 6: Chairman: Ronald Bunag
Member: Kath Felizardo, Mae Aruta, Denise Gallardo