By Karla Angelica Pastores Contributor IT'S a step towards modernizing elections in the whole Philippines. Yes, we’re talking about automation, as the Philippines made its debut into the modern world’s election process with the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) computerized elections last Monday. The ARMM elections will serve as a prelude to what might possibly happen in 2010, the crucial time when we elect our next president. If this pilot test proves the notion that automation reduces the chances of dishonest acts, then preparations will then have to be made for 2010. On the other hand, if the elections will be judged as a failure, then more work should be done, at the cost of a “failed election” in ARMM. This, I believe, is not acceptable. But since we have yet to evaluate the polls, this is still an issue for future blogs. Automated elections alone do not guarantee fraud-free polls. To the really corrupt people whose opportunities for dishonesty were lessened by the power of computerization, it presents a bigger obstacle to open new doors of cheating. Perhaps not surprisingly, last Monday’s polls were marked with irregularities noted by volunteers of different groups. Aside from apparent vote-buying, machine malfunction caused a delay in the voting in some parts of Maguindanao. The former is a sad reality that we need to correct; the latter is a new problem we have to be prepared for. But I believe that automated elections will contribute more to the solution rather than to the problem. The problems of automation are easier to fix than the problems of some corrupt people with honest elections. Machines are more obedient to their manufacturers than other people are to their Creator, who is of course all for honesty. Filipinos are brilliant; we are not inept when it comes to technology, even though we may not be at the forefront of it. I said earlier that having computerized elections alone will not assure us of pristine polls, because some of the brilliant Filipinos I mentioned are, sad to say, using those smarts for their own selfish interests instead of being part of that which propels the nation to development. No, having computers count our ballots will not solve the problem of inefficient leaders, especially if there are no ballots to count. Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson Jose Melo told reporters in Manila that voter turnout in the ARMM elections was “very, very good.” To set things straight, voter turnout was approximately 60-70 percent. Those percentage is not even enough for a student to pass a subject satisfactorily. How many more elections must take place before “very, very good” means a 90-95 percent voter turnout or even a hundred? Very, very many? Let us hope that the first automated elections in the Philippines will pave the way for automation in the 2010 elections. In Mindanao where violence is something to get used to, voter turnout was actually better than what some people have thought. If we are conscious enough to ensure that each person fulfills his or her duty to vote, and take the go the extra mile to volunteer as election watchdogs, automation can be a step closer towards a better Philippines. Clean and honest elections don’t have to cost us an arm and a leg. Kai Pastores, is the program officer for IamChange2010, a joint project of the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and Team RP. It aims to get the young Filipinos to register and vote in the coming 2010 Presidential elections and educate them on various political issues. For inquiries, you may contact Kai at +63 2 4265657.
Recently in ARMM Category
Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front has joined President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's call for the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is also going to be the election that would test the automated election system mandated by law. Lira Dalangin-Fernandez also reported on MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu's disclosure about his meeting with the President in Shariff Kabunsuan not to discuss the pending peace agreement but to oversee the implementation of a government project involving the clearing and dredging of the heavily silted Rio Grande de Mindanao in the province. Arroyo's recommendation came after lawmakers have indicated plans to file separate bills to push for the postponement of the ARMM polls. Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo, however, wanted the ARMM polls to push through, but also noted that "it's up to Congress."
HERE'S an excerpt from the Infotech article.
DRE uses a touch-screen or touch-pad technology for voting, while OMR requires voters to fill up a paper-based ballot which is fed to a specially designed machine, similar to a scanner. The Comelec en banc, however, has decided to use the DRE technology for the whole province of Maguindanao, which was contrary to the advisory council's recommendation which limited the use of DRE in two cities or municipalities. The advisory council has recommended the DRE technology in two cities or municipalities. Jimenez said the Comelec en banc decided to use the DRE for the whole province of Maguindanao to test the technology in time for the 2010 elections. The ARMM automated polls is a test pilot leading to the 2010 presidential elections, the Comelec spokesperson said.