The Explainer: Dagdag-bawas

That was a scene from Episode 22 of “Heroes.” I’m sure there are many nervous candidates that wish they knew someone with mutant powers with the power to change election results. But this is the real world. When it comes to electoral fraud, political operators rely on both the tried-and-tested ways to cheat, as well as constantly inventing new ones.

Tonight: how your vote and mine can end up credited to someone you never intended to vote for at all. It’s dagdag-bawas night, folks.


I’m Manolo Quezon. The Explainer.


I. Beyond “Three G’s”


This editorial cartoon from the 1969 presidential polls says it all: and it’s the constant refrain we hear: I wuz robbed. And in many cases, candidates were, and are, robbed.

But the robbing of votes has changed over time. There are the low tech ways. Guns, goons, and gold could change election results. But using the three G’s has its limits.

One limit is, if the cheaters are too disliked, they can’t bribe or intimidate enough.



Look at what’s happened in Pampanga. In local and national races, some candidates do so well, the ultimate results can’t be changed.


Another limit is, the use of guns and goons can only take you so far. ]


Explainee, would you like to read what Senator Ralph Recto told Inquirer senior reporter Gil Cabacungan Jr. in a telephone interview on election day?

I believe that part of the reason for the violence is that some unscrupulous politicians were not prepared for the campaign and had to make up for the lost time because they thought there would be no elections this year. –Ralph Recto


Now Recto was talking about local races, where smaller populations can be intimidated. But in national terms, it’s harder to do.

And this brings us to the third limit on traditional fraud. In a country where news and information are now so widespread, the chances of being caught are greater than ever. Explainee, in one of our previous episodes, we played an old campaign song, and it went like this:


First they voted in Lanao

At pati na aswang pa daw

Ang eleksiyon lutong macao

‘Til Magsaysay showed them how


And if you’ve been following the news, you’ll notice problems with the counting are sadly identified with areas from which it’s difficult to report, and where public and media scrutiny aren’t high. But notice too, that these places are getting fewer, as more parts of the country develop their own local media and are integrated into the national media.

Political operators hate the spotlight. First of all, the more people you involve, the greater the chance you’ll get caught; and the more individuals you involve, the greater the chance things will go wrong.

And this brings us to the fourth limitation on traditional fraud. Our huge population makes it financially crazy to try to cheat, one voter at a time.

For the same reason that buying candy on a retail basis is more expensive than buying candy wholesale, the three g’s of old-fashioned, low-tech fraud make less financial sense, on a national basis, than the high-tech forms of fraud known as dagdag-bawas.

Which is a sure-fire investment? Bribing a voter, which means you have to invest in lots of people to check and counter-check voters you bribed, or take the human element out of things altogether? This is the logic behind dagdag-bawas.


In 1986, when we went through the snap elections, it was accompanied by a national and local effort to shine the media spotlight, and guard every ballot box and precinct, to prevent fraud. President Marcos and his operators, discovered that having local leaders snatch ballot boxes and wave guns at volunteers was a p.r. disaster. Something less obvious and more efficient had to be done.

That was dagdag-bawas, and it has a birthday. February 9, 1986, when Comelec computer operators walked out of the national canvassing taking place at the PICC. They said they were instructed to input inflated numbers for known administration bailiwicks, and subtract numbers from opposition strongholds. The actual votes had become irrelevant. Why cheat in the voting when you could manipulate the counting?

By the time the old Batasang Pambansa, manned by many of the same people still in the House of Representatives today, proclaimed President Marcos, hardly anyone believed he was the winner. Dagdag-bawas had been exposed, in no small part because even if it involved computers, the methods were still crude.

Since then, the methods for cheating nationally have become increasingly sophisticated. In 2005, these methods were exposed and the country underwent a crash-course in figuring out how it was done.

The Friday before election day, Newsbreak published an online article exposing how dagdag-bawas would be done this year. Newsbreak said first of all, a new trick would be inaugurated:

*Precinct-based cheating will involve teachers, who, as election inspectors, will be tasked to misread the candidates’ names in the ballots.

Newsbreak also said these tricks from 2004 wouldn’t be used, because people had figured out how it was done:

* The use of pre-accomplished election returns (ERs) that were switched with genuine ones before the municipal canvassing began.

* The use of extra certificates of canvass (COCS) that tampered with actual provincial tallies.


However, these tricks from 2004 would be used:

* Wide-scale operations only in “friendly” cities and provinces.

* An unusually high voter turnout in these areas.

* The buying out, if necessary, of the opposition’s poll watchers.


Now how wide-scale is wide-scale? Let’s establish a frame of reference.

This wonderful Wikipedia map shows how provinces voted in 2004. Areas in pink, yellow, and green didn’t vote for the administration, and the surveys have shown in the years since, that administration senatorial slates wouldn’t do well there. But most of the areas in blue could possibly deliver.

So your first wide-scale operation would be to find a way to increase votes in these blue areas, or in pink areas now controlled by allies of the powers-that-be.

Explainee, let’s do some of our famous Explainer low-tech experiments to show how you’d do this.

Here we have some friendly orcs. Now these orcs will have to represent we, the voters: both bonafide ones, and the flying kind.

We have two sets of orcs here. Let’s say one group represents an area where a party expects to lose. Another, an where they expect to win.

In this opposition-oriented area, simply disenfranchise as many orcs as you can. Explainee, take away some orcs. Then they can’t vote.

In this administration-friendly area, increase the number of people qualified to vote, whether or not those voters exist.

Explainee, add some orcs representing flying voters or invented votes.

If you consult’s Eleksyon 2007 electoral map you can see what I mean for yourself. The numbers in it are official figures, from the Comelec, and they include comparisons between the number of registered voters in 2004, and for 2007.

In some parts of the country, the number of registered voters went up from 11 to 20% (in blue); in others, more than 20% (in green); in others, the number of registered voters went down (in red).

Notice the massive increase in voters: in Lanao del Sur. It gets interesting if you look at the province’s voters, town by town.

Buadiposo-Buntong, the number of voters increased by 120%.

Mulondo, increased by 73%, and other towns from 30 to 60%.

Binidayan, an increase in voters by 147%.

In Sultan Dumalondong, 171.88%.

Now Maguindanao had decrease in voters, but that’s because between 2004 and today, it’s first district became a separate province, Sharrif Kabunsuan.

But look at Maguindanao’s own figures: South Upi’s voters increased by 72.7%; Paglat’s voters went up by 43%.

Sharrif Kabunsuan’s voters went up, too. Two towns here by about 25% each.

And not just in Mindanao. An example from Luzon will have to suffice.

In Cagayan, Santa Teresita’s voters grew by 65%;

And in Santa Praxedes, the number of voters grew by 236% and in Santo Nino, by 138%.


Now look at the National Capitol Region, where every year, more people move, but which has traditionally been opposition.

In Quezon City, there were 12% fewer voters.

In Taguig, bailiwick of Alan Peter Cayetano, 11% fewer voters; in Malabon-Navotas, a whopping 56% fewer voters. Did they all die?

In Manila, 6% fewer voters.


Now I called these alarming numbers in my May 14 column, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that places like Maguindanao have become so tarnished that Namfrel simply refuses to accept the figures that belatedly emerged from there. And the story’s being repeated in Lanao. And no, it’s not a Muslim thing. Our Muslims brothers and sisters went out to vote with as much dedication and enthusiasm as anyone else. It’s just that it’s proving harder to accurately count their votes.

When we come back, let’s look at how the numbers from the precincts to the provinces, can be manipulated.

II. Mechanics of Dagdag-Bawas


That was a scene from the movie “Man of the Year,” where Jeff Goldblum’s character confronts a programmer whose uncovered a program weakness that could alter the results of an automated election.

Explainee, in its explosive election eve article, Newsbreak listed as the places where mischief could be expected:

These are Camarines Sur (the stronghold of Kampi president Rep. Luis Villafuerte), Eastern Samar (where TU assistant campaign manager Ben Evardone is governor), Ilocos Sur (where TU candidate Luis Singson is governor), Surigao del Sur (where TU bet Prospero Pichay is congressman), Bukidnon (where TU bet Miguel Zubiri is congressman and his father the governor), and Batangas (where Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is kingmaker).


[ ]


We know now, of course, that some, like Secretary Eduardo Ermita, failed to deliver.




And as one of my favorite Mindanawon bloggers, Patsada Karajaw puts it, would you like to read?

Before the elections, TEAM UNITY is boasting it can achieve 12-0 sweep by regions. Now that the results are trickling in where the Regions were voting overwhelmingly for the opposition, TEAM UNITY reduced their boast of a sweep from regional level to municipal level.


[ ]

Which is exactly what’s been happening. It’s no longer a claim of sweeping entire regions, like the Visayas, it’s about sweeping villages.


[ ]

With enough villages hopefully adding up to change the national outcome the namfrel numbers have been showing thus far.


When schoolteachers labored until the early morning hours.

Counting our votes, scrutinized each step of the way by poll watchers-

and by civic groups and electoral watchdogs.

They were laboring on the first step in reporting the results of an election. They, as our individual precinct’s Board of Election Inspectors,  produced an Election Return, or ER.

These went to the municipal or city board of canvassers, who added up the precinct results and and produced a Certificate of Canvass, or COC.

These COC’s went to the provincial canvassers, who then produced a Provincial Certificate of Canvass (PCOC) and it’s these that are being counted by the Comelec in the national canvass of senatorial and partylist votes.

Dagdag-bawas is often described as wholesale fraud, in contrast to the old ways of cheating, which was retail fraud. It involves the figures reported in the ER’s, COC’s, and PCOC’s and national canvassing.

Instead of spending time, money, and energy on influencing the results one voter at time, dagdag-bawas involves manipulating entire populations.

Explainee, let’s do another one of our amazing Explainer low-tech demonstrations. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of dagdag-bawas. For tonight, we have here:

Patriotic poker chips in red, white, and blue.

Some index cards.

And a pentel pen.

Each color represents a candidate. Each pile of like-colored chips represents the votes for each candidate. Two sets of three colors each represents two precincts.

So let’s say you and I are voters. Let’s say we could vote for a maximum of three senators. I’d vote for senators red, white, and blue in my precint.

You might say, vote for senator red and white but not senator blue.

Let’s start by demonstrating…

Or, as someone famously said, “’yung dagdag, ‘yung dagdag.”

One way, as we saw with out orcs, to pad votes is to affect the number of voters.

Let’s say you have an idea, through surveys or your local leader’s knowing how their constituents feel, that candidates white and red are strong, but blue is weak.

So don’t let people inclined to vote for white or red vote. More blue votes will get through and do better.

Or simply start counting white and red chips as blue. More blue.

Or simply add blue chips from your pocket.

Now you see, these have much less to do with the actual number of chips, which was the actual number of votes.

Now let’s go on to:

So we have three piles, red, white, and blue. Those are the votes each senator got.

We could shave votes this way. See their relative standings? More white chips for white, fewer for red, and fewest for blue?

In a precinct, we could simply take away even more of red’s and blue’s. Overall, the results wouldn’t change: white still has more than either red or blue.

But when you add up these numbers, and add them to other precincts, the overall percentage of white chips would start adding up, the overall number of blue and red chips could go down.

Now what if every red and white chip you took away you distributed among the blue chips? Then you could tremendously increase the number of blue chips.

Take these index cards. We could write down the results for each pile:

And add them up wrong.

Or substitute fake ones for genuine ones.

And you’d do to these index cards, which are your ER’s, COC’s, and PCOC’s, what we did to the chips.

When we return, our guest will explain to us how all these dagdag-bawas tricks end up working for or against candidates on a national level.


My view


The cheating has hogged the headlines, but here’s the real story: there are tens of thousands, even millions, of men and women who stood their ground, voted for who they wanted to, and many others who did their part to make sure those votes would not be stolen or miscounted in the dark of night. The volunteers of the media quick counts, the survey firms, the reporters who braved hostile areas where a media spotlight is to political operators what sunlight is to vampires, all stood their ground.

Take Miguel Zubiri, who was offended by my Monday Inquirer column. Yet on election day, he acknowledged his candidacy had taken a hit from his being an administration candidate. While the exit polls showed he was in the 8-12 range, so far his ranking in the quick counts is disappointing.

My gut feel is his otherwise promising candidacy was severely compromised by the public mood. On TV Zubiri said he sensed as much, too. Now, will he make it? Maybe. I do think one has to be blind to think the operators moving to deliver a belated 12-0 for Team Unity aren’t benefiting Zubiri, too. And there lies the tragedy.

But if Zubiri wins, does this mean he, personally, is a cheat? No. I personally will never think Miguel Zubiri is a cheater, or wants anyone to cheat for him.

But there will be candidates who may still win, but who have already lost the battle for a genuine mandate from the people. And this is the tragedy. It’s a tragedy that, whatever his position, I know Miguel Zubiri will move heaven and earth to avoid being repeated.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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