Pinoys vote on May 10

PHILIPPINES– For the first time in Philippine electoral history, the counting of votes cast by Filipinos on May 10 will be automated. And yet, as of press time with only a few days before the polling, some sectors are still putting pressure on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow a parallel manual count after Comelec has completed preparations for the electronic vote.

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The Makati Business Club, the Philippine Bar Association, and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections have proposed a parallel manual count for the votes for president, vice president and mayors to prevent cheating.

“The credibility of automated elections has suffered because the Comelec removed many of the safeguards that were initially set in place – source code review, ultraviolet mark checking, authenticity check through digital signatures,” said an open letter to Comelec chair Jose Melo released last week by the business groups.

On April 29, the Comelec junked a proposal from multi-sectoral groups and IT experts to conduct a parallel manual count in the contests for president, vice president and mayors but will conduct random manual counts to ensure the integrity of the automated balloting.

Even the presidential candidates are divided on the issue. Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Jamby Madrigal, former President Joseph Estrada, evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas and Olongapo City Councilor JC de los Reyes were in favour. Senators Manny Villar and Richard Gordon and former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. were against.

“I don’t know why they do not want it. This for me is a very good concept – that in this manual count we have a statistical method to determine whether or not the transmissions of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines are valid,” Aquino said in a press briefing on April 27th.

Teodoro warned that the manual count was fraught with dangers. “I’m not saying that they will do it, but there’s the danger of trending there …” said the administration standard-bearer. He wondered why the proponents did not raise the proposal before all work on the automation was finalized. “Why change it now? People can’t help but think that this will favour some candidates,” he added.

Presidential aspirant Richard Gordon, likewise, rejected the proposed parallel manual counting of votes, saying it opens the door to possible election fraud.

Gordon, the proponent of the automation law, said the main purpose of the shift to electronic voting was to ensure credible election results.

“Ang kalaban ng free, honest, [and] speedy election ay matagal [na bilangan]. Pag matagal tinitingnan kung sino nananalo sa ibang lugar tapos papalitan nila,” Gordon said at a press briefing held in Pasig City.

(A lengthy canvassing of votes is dangerous to clean, free and honest elections. This could lead to trending.)

He also criticized the Comelec’s plan to release the poll results three days after the elections. According to the senator, the winners should be declared at 11 p.m. on May 10, noting that the counting would be done by machines.

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