A Challenge to NAMFREL

Roberto Verzola is a pioneer in the local computer industry. He designed and built a microcomputer in 1982, and set up the first online system at the Senate and the House of Representatives in 1991, as well as the first online system used by BusinessWorld for its reporters. This piece was published in the Yellow Pad column of Business World, 30 August 2004 Edition.

This essay follows up an earlier piece, published in a national daily
(20 June 2004), which exposed the major discrepancies between the
NAMFREL and Congress tallies as well as NAMFREL’s selective tabulation
in favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I released a more complete
analysis of the Congress and NAMFREL tallies on 14 August 2004, which
was cited in several news stories, columns and even editorials.

Trying to reach NAMFREL officials

Before releasing my final report, I had written to NAMFREL Chair Jose
Concepcion, Jr. (three letters in all) and Secretary-general Guillermo
Luz (two letters and several follow-up phone calls) in July, informing
them of my findings and asking for a meeting to discuss these findings
with them and their technical people. I managed to reach Mr. Concepcion
by phone, but he referred me to Mr. Luz.

I also talked to two other NAMFREL officials, a former cabinet
secretary and a bishop, asking to present my case. Both did not want to
see it, and told me to see Mr. Luz. Mr. Luz, however, would not even
talk to me on the phone. Through his secretary, I asked Mr. Luz several
times for at least a written reply to my letters (a request I also made
in writing). As of today, I haven’t gotten any.

I do not know if Mr. Concepcion or Mr. Luz ever responded via the
media, because I do not monitor every newspaper or radio/TV program.
But I have neither read nor heard any response, nor has any NAMFREL
official contacted me at all.

The case against NAMFREL

First, a definition of terms: “total votes” is the sum of all votes for
president; “GMA lead” is the votes for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo minus
the votes for Fernando Poe, Jr. or PJ (a negative lead means an FPJ
lead); “GMA margin” is the GMA lead as percentage of the total votes;
“discrepancy” is the GMA margin under Congress minus the GMA margin
under NAMFREL.

Let me reiterate my case against NAMFREL.

Congress says GMA won by 1.1 million. The NAMFREL data clearly showed
major discrepancies between its presidential tally and that of
Congress. The discrepancies were largest in ARMM (50.5%), Central
Mindanao (13.5%), CAR (4.1%), Northern Mindanao (3.9%) and Western
Mindanao (3.9%). Among provinces, the provinces with the widest
discrepancies were Basilan (75.1%), Sultan Kudarat (65.4%), Lanao del
Sur (58.0%) and Sulu (41.3%), where FPJ won under the NAMFREL count but
where GMA won under the Congress canvass. The discrepancies mean that
GMA could not have won by 1.1 million, if we take NAMFREL’s tally to be
closer to the truth.

I believe it is, for three reasons: a) it is based on precinct election
returns, and did not pass through the hands of municipal and provincial
cheats; b) the cheats would probably concentrate on the official
(Congress) rather than the unofficial (NAMFREL) count; and c) teachers
and volunteers tabulating precinct election returns (ERs) in full
public view are more credible than provincial COMELEC officials
preparing certificates of canvass (COCs). In its Terminal Report,
NAMFREL was completely silent about these discrepancies. Why?

NAMFREL showed GMA leading by around 681,000. However, an analysis of
the NAMFREL tally will reveal a demonstrable pattern of selective
tabulation. In essence, pro-GMA regions were counted ahead of pro-FPJ
regions, creating a skew, i.e., an artificially high lead, in favor of
GMA. The skew was worst on the sixth day (NAMFREL Reports 39-44), and
persisted up to the Terminal Report (No. 83). Because of the selective
tabulation, more FPJ votes remained uncounted than GMA votes. Thus, the
true results should show a GMA lead that is definitely less than
681,000 votes.

My analysis demonstrated this selective tabulation in five different
ways: a) as percentage of their final votes, GMA votes were counted
faster than FPJ votes; b) the tally was more nearly complete in GMA
areas than in FPJ areas; c) of the 5.1 million votes that NAMFREL did
not count, 4 million were from FPJ areas and only 1.1 million from GMA
areas (in Metro Manila alone, an FPJ area, NAMFREL did not count around
a million votes!); d) if we split the reports into two and tally the
first and second halves separately, GMA leads the first half and FPJ
the second half, showing the early tally of GMA votes and the late
tally of FPJ votes; e) tabulating Reports 1-82 in reverse (i.e., last
report first, first report last) results in an FPJ lead in Reports
82-40 and a GMA lead in Reports 39-1, showing clearly the clustering of
FPJ votes at the latter part of the tally and of GMA votes at the
earlier part of the tally.

NAMFREL officials did not release a final breakdown of the precincts
they have tallied (or not tallied) per region or province, despite the
requirement in its COMELEC accreditation that it should do so. In fact,
such a report should have been part of its system design from the
beginning. Absence of this information masks the pro-GMA skew by making
it difficult to estimate the voting turnout and the progress of the
tally per region or province.

I estimated the information from NAMFREL’s Report No. 73, the last
report that contained such a breakdown, allowing the computation of the
average vote turnout per precinct in each region. Releasing this
information would have enabled independent analysts to estimate very
closely the true results of the elections.

Who won?

I have been asked: Do you realize what you are doing? Do you want
another actor for president? This matter of whom we want for president
was the central issue before the elections. But after the last vote was
cast, the only relevant issue is: What was the result of the voting?
That is what has been guiding me: the search for the true results of
the 2004 presidential elections.

Fortunately, although the NAMFREL tally was skewed in favor of GMA,
much of the skew could be corrected. By using the final 1.5 million
votes counted in NAMFREL’s Terminal Report as a representative sample
for the uncounted votes (6.6 million before the Terminal Report, 5.1
million after the report), we can estimate how these uncounted votes
went.

And I found out that FPJ’s lead in the uncounted votes was enough to
erase GMA’s lead overall. It was a very close contest indeed, perhaps a
dead-heat.

The results came out as a range: a GMA lead from 156,000 to -84,000.
The final numbers may vary by a few tens of thousands up or down,
reflecting the uncertainties inherent in the assumptions I was making.

Conclusions

But the data unmistakably lead to the following conclusions, that:

  1. GMA did not win by either 1.1 million (Congress) or 681,000 (NAMFREL).
  2. The NAMFREL tally shows clear signs of manipulation through
    selective tabulation in favor of GMA, making her lead seem larger, but
    much of the skew in the NAMFREL data can be corrected through
    statistical operations.
  3. It was a very close contest, and either candidate might have won by around a hundred thousand votes or less.
  4. NAMFREL officials appear to be keeping the truth from the public
    by: a) not including in their system design a provincial or regional
    breakdown of precincts counted; b) not releasing this breakdown despite
    strong demands by the opposition, the media and election watchers; c)
    refusing to release this information today despite repeated requests,
    and d) keeping silent on the major discrepancies between their tally
    and the Congress canvass.

If NAMFREL releases this breakdown, we might be able to narrow down the probable range even further and get closer to the truth.

I can sit down with any NAMFREL official or technical person to explain
my analysis, to show them the demonstrable pro-GMA bias in the NAMFREL
tally. I am willing to face any NAMFREL official in a public forum to
discuss this issue. If they have any sense of public accountability at
all, they cannot ignore this challenge.

Those who want the full data set of the Congress and NAMFREL results
can get them freely from www.abrenian.com or buy the data CD at cost
(rverzola@gn.apc.org or 0919-608-7073).

No comments yet.