WITH the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) finally submitting a validation report of its 2004 election quick count to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in January, new media activist Roberto Verzola has come out with his updated analysis on the extent of cheating in the 2004 presidential elections, concluding that key officals of the election watchdog were part of the poll fraud cover-up.
In this latest update, Verzola claimed to have found clear indications that key Namfrel officials engaged in the following:
- Selective tabulation — GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) regions were tallied more completely than FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) regions, which biased their tally in favor of GMA and increased her apparent lead over FPJ;
- Tabulation of spurious returns — Highly questionable reports were included in Namfrel’s Report No. 83 and the Validation Report, which further increased GMA’s apparent lead over FPJ;
- Withholding of precinct breakdowns — The regional breakdown of the number of precincts tallied was withheld in 71 of their 83 reports, which prevented the public from determining the full extent of the selective tabulation and the inclusion of spurious returns;
- Misreporting of precinct counts — The number of precincts tallied in the Validation Report was misreported in some areas, which altered completion rates and masked the full extent of the selective tabulation; and
- Ignoring indications of cheating — Significant discrepancies between their tally and the official one, indicating cheating mostly in favor of GMA, were ignored, which denied the public important information about electoral fraud in the 2004 presidential elections.
“Is this what (Virgilio) Garcillano meant when he made to Arroyo a private boast about Namfrel officials — inadvertently but fortunately recorded for posterity in the “Hello, Garci” tapes — that ‘they are now sympathetic to us’?” asked Verzola.
In September last year, Verzola also released an update to his earlier paper after he obtained from Namfrel a regional breakdown of precincts it tallied in its Report No. 81, and a regional and provincial breakdown of precincts it tallied in its terminal report, Report No. 83.
Verzola said then that an “invisible hand” within Namfrel’s national tabulation center manipulated the results of its tally by:
- Delaying the canvassing of FPJ areas vis-a-vis GMA areas and then aborting its count
- Doctoring precinct totals and tally completion percentages
- Canvassing tampered election returns
Verzola has been nagging Namfrel for the precinct breakdowns since July 2004 when it released its 83rd report. The Comelec had also asked Namfrel for the same breakdown of precincts “by city/municipality, province and region” in compliance with its accreditation requirements as election watchdog.
The precinct breakdowns, Verzola said, are important as useful indicators of the rate of completion and average votes per precinct that help in detecting cheating, manipulation or doctoring of figures. “They also make it possible for third parties to estimate the true results of the elections, if the tally is not completed,” he added.
While acknowledging that wholesale cheating did happen, Namfrel technology chief Gus Lagman questioned Verzola’s motives for picking on Namfrel. “So what’s all that effort about? He’s just after Namfrel’s goat? Shouldn’t he go after the Comelec commissioners instead? After all, it’s they who allowed the cheating to happen. Theirs is the official count.”
Lagman said he even used Verzola’s original paper, which Manuel “Mano” Alcuaz simplified and he reformatted, to present to several audiences a very clear picture of how dagdag-bawas occurred in seven provinces in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We showed how the “Hello, Garci” tape connected to the dagdag-bawas (operations) in those provinces, proving, albeit with circumstancial evidence, the culpability of the Comelec, through Garcillano,” he said.
But Verzola said the big question to him is why Namfrel kept “deathly quiet” about the election fraud. “When their coordinator in Lanao del Sur went public to expose the official cheating, Namfrel even disowned him. Namfrel volunteers in the field risked their lives and safety to make a truthful tally, only to be ignored by key Namfrel officials when their tally went against the official count.”
Denying Lagman’s accusation that he was singling out the election watchdog, Verzola said he was only drawn by the fact that Namfrel’s count, even if it showed huge discrepancy compared to the official count in some provinces, also showed its own signs of manipulation in favor of Arroyo by making the Namfrel’s final tally appear more consistent with the official tally.
“In effect, those key officials who tried to hide Namfrel’s true results helped to cover up the official cheating,” he claimed.
As a challenge to Namfrel, Verzola urged its officials to release the full breakdown by region (if not, by province) of the precincts it tallied for each of its 83 reports. These data, he said, hold the key to the full extent of the official cheating that happened in 2004. At present, only about a dozen of Namfrel’s submitted reports have such breakdown.
But Verzola isn’t quite optimistic. “I think I know why they would not release this breakdown, it will expose not only the full extent of the official cheating, but also the extent of culpability of some Namfrel officials in helping to cover up the official cheating in 2004.”
Download Verzola’s updated analysis here.