DND chief: Gov't ready for 30% automation failure

DND chief: Gov’t ready for 30% automation failure
By Henry Omaga Diaz

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time, a ranking official of the Arroyo administration admitted that the automated elections could fail.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales reveals up to 30% of machines to be used in the coming polls may not function properly.

He was quoting the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which supposedly made this statement in a security cluster meeting in Malacañang.

“Ang calculation nila, ang worst-case scenario is 30% baka hindi matuloy ang automation, pero ishi-shift din naman nila sa manual yun,” he says in an interview with ABS-CBN News. “Ang failure of election, masasabi natin kung walang resulta. Failure of automation and tinitingnan natin.”

Gonzales says even President Arroyo was surprised by the Comelec’s assessment.

“Natatandaan ko ang Pangulo natin, tatlong beses na paulit-ulit yun, tinatanong talaga niya ang Comelec…Kaya naman nagpatawag siya ng National Security Council para may panahon pa para ayusin kung may diperensya, i-repair natin,” he recalls.

But the Comelec asserts Gonzales might not have completely understood the Comelec statement.

“We’re printing 30% of the national requirement for that [contingency]. So, kung ikoconfuse mo yung dalawa, yun na nga, mukhang scary, but these are two separate things,” explains Comelec spokesman Director James Jimenez.

But Gonzales notes it is crucial to prepare for the possible automation problems come election day.

JDV: Bangit to take over

For former Arroyo ally and House Speaker Jose de Venecia, it is the administration which is behind moves to make the elections fail.

De Venecia notes that if no president, vice president or senator is proclaimed, and the Senate leadership and House speakership remain vacant, the military might take over the government.

“So by June 30, no presidential winner is proclaimed. By July 1, our friend Gen. [Delfin] Bangit, as chief of staff of the armed forces, will assume military rule. And you cannot blame him because there is no civil power,” says de Venecia.

De Venecia believes Mrs. Arroyo will not step down on June 30 since several charges are expected to be filed against her.

Maclang to put career on line

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vehemently denies plans for a junta.

AFP vice chief of staff Rodrigo Maclang says a military rule is not part of the military’s contingency plan in case of election failure.

“But we are prepared to address any event, in any event that something happens,” Maclang says.

When asked if Bangit will take over in case there no proclamation by June 30, he says: “We have not talked about it right now.”

Maclang, head of Task Force HOPE, which is in charge of the elections, says he will do everything to spare the military from politics, and avoid being dragged into election scandals like in 2004.

“I will not allow it. I will put my career on the line. I will resign if something happens like that in the future,” says Maclang.

Maclang notes every soldier knows his role this coming elections — protect the ballot at all times.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.