Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10MANILA281.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MANILA281
2010-02-12 08:40
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO2096
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DE RUEHML #0281/01 0430840
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 120840Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6554
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000281

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM RP
SUBJECT: POLL PREPARATIONS ON TRACK, ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIR ASSURES CHARGE

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i. Leslie A. Bassett, reason: 1.4 (
b) and (d).

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Jose Melo
told the Charge d’Affaires on February 8 that preparations
for th Philippines’ first automated national election Ma 10
were proceeding well. Melo was satisfied wih the ongoing
delivery and testing of SmartMaticmachines for scanning
ballots and transmitting elction results. Through mock
elections and publi service announcements, COMELEC is
seeking to intill greater public confidence in and awareness
f automated election procedures. Melo appreciated
cooperation with the NGO International Foundationfor
Election Systems (IFES) and was willing to asist other
international NGOs and the Embassy’s wn observer mission.
The Autonomous Region in Mulim Mindanao (ARMM) will hold its
elections on te same day as the rest of the Philippines,
despit earlier speculation COMELEC would organize earlie
elections in the ARMM. End Summary.

COMELECU.S. COOPERATION
————————

¶2. C) On February 8, the last day before the start ofthe
formal campaign period for upcoming national lections, the
Charge d’Affaires called on Commision on Elections (COMELEC)
Chairman Jose Melo. he Charge congratulated Melo on
February 6 mock lections that had provided COMELEC an
opportunit to educate the public further on the use of new
ptical scanners; the mock elections appeared largey
successful, according to press reports and a UAID observer.
The Charge explained that the USG,through USAID, was
providing support for the upcming elections.

¶3. (C) The Charge thanked Melo fr COMELEC’s providing
Mission diplomatic securit personnel and U.S. forces coveredby the Visiting Forces Agreement with exemptions from the
government’s strictly enforced weapons ban for the formal
election period. The Charge also previewed a request for
COMELEC accreditation of a U.S. Embassy election observation
mission and noted that the Carter Center and the National
Democratic Institute might also request observer status.
Melo welcomed these requests and expressed strong
appreciation for USAID grantee IFES Philippines.

SMARTMATIC MACHINES
——————-

¶4. (C) Melo explained that U.S. company SysTest, contracted
by COMELEC, was evaluating the SmartMatic machines for
scanning ballots and transmitting vote tallies. SysTest
would provide COMELEC with a report the following day. By
February 22, Melo anticipated, SysTest would provide COMELEC
with formal certification of the SmartMatic systems. (Note:
A SysTest executive — protect — told us on February 12 that
SysTest’s February 9 report had concluded that SmartMatic’s
systems had minor shortcomings that should not affect system
operations. The executive said SysTest is continuing testing
the machines’ accuracy, capacity, and stress limitations, but
SysTest’s formal certification appeared likely. End note.)
Melo lamented that some Filipino legislators now were
expressing a preference for the more familiar voting method,
in which voters write by hand the names of their candidates,
but some of those same legislators bore responsibility for
the law requiring a transition to automated vote-counting.

¶5. (C) Melo explained that, of the of 82,000 SmartMatic units
ordered for the elections, almost 50,000 had arrived in the
Philippines and other 20,000 were en route. SmartMatic had
assured that it would deliver all the units by February 21.
COMELEC had already received associated materials, such as
batteries and laptop computers.

¶6. (C) The Charge asked about newspaper reports that there
had been an influx into the Philippines of thousands of
jammers of wireless transmissions. Melo dismissed the
reports, noting that it might be possible to jam some
transmissions for some period of time, but it would not be
possible to transmit false results to COMELEC’s servers, and
the poll workers would eventually be able to transmit their
results — either by moving the SmartMatic machines or by
using a Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) that SmartMatic
had established in order to provide an alternate means of

MANILA 00000281 002 OF 002

transmission for areas lacking standard wireless network
coverage. (Note: Separately, National Intelligence
Coordinating Agency officials told the Embassy that they did
not believe the jammers mentioned in press reports
represented a serious threat to the transmission of election
results. End Note.)

¶7. (C) Melo further explained that concerns about automated
vote-tallying appeared overblown. COMELEC had fallback
options. If necessary, polling place officials could resort
to manual ballot-counting, since the SmartMatic machines
would retain the voters’ marked ballots in a ballot box.
Printed copies of the returns in voting precincts would be
posted and distributed to candidates’ representatives.

¶8. (C) COMELEC had begun printing ballots, Melo explained.
Although the ultimate eligibility of some candidates (such as
former President Joseph Estrada) remained unresolved as legal
challenges continued, COMELEC’s schedule would not allow
further delay of ballot-printing. (Separately, a COMELEC
official told foreign diplomats that the SmartMatic scanners
will disregard votes for candidates disqualified prior to
election day; the machines will not produce a tally of votes
for disqualified candidates.)

NO EARLY ELECTION IN THE SOUTH
——————————

¶9. (C) Melo expressed regret that the Senate had gone into
recess without approving legislation that would have provided
for early elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao (ARMM). The ARMM elections would take place on May
10, as in the rest of the Philippines. When the Charge asked
about security concerns, Melo noted that units of the Armed
Forces of the Philippines and the police would be deputized
by COMELEC to provide security. Melo did not appear
particularly concerned about security.

VOTER EDUCATION
—————

¶10. (C) Voter education would soon increase, Melo said,
through the distribution of informative video discs as well
as through radio and television spots broadcast per a COMELEC
agreement with the Philippine Information Agency. Events
such as the recent mock elections would also inspire greater
voter awareness. Many participants in the mock elections
remarked that they had found it simple and easy to use the
SmartMatic systems. COMELEC would undertake more
comprehensive training of poll workers closer to election day.

COMMENT
——-

¶11. (C) Melo’s confidence was reassuring, but there is still
a need for continued aggressive voter education and poll
worker training efforts. Mission will continue to work
closely with NGO’s and COMELEC to encourage them to maintain
the demanding pace of preparations needed to overcome the
serious logistical challenges remaining before the May 10
elections.
BASSETT

   

 

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