Monsod: Problem of incompetence, it’s solvable
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Former Commission on Elections chair Christian Monsod Wednesday doused anew fears of a jittery public that glitches in the testing of counting machines would lead to an election failure.
“The good news is that this (glitch) is not part of a conspiracy to manipulate the polls, nor an attempt to cheat. This is a problem of incompetence and it’s solvable,” he said by phone.
Technical glitches resurfaced in Monday’s testing of the voting tally machines, called precinct count optical scan (PCOS), in polling precincts in some parts of Luzon.
In one instance, the machines produced a tally sheet of votes different from the inputs. In another, they only read portions of the sample ballots across the names of national candidates.
Smartmatic blamed this on the machines’ memory cards, which contained the wrong “instruction” on the local ballot face, prompting the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to recall the cards of 76,000 machines already deployed to regional hubs for field distribution.
Monsod stood by the capability of the Comelec and its partner, Smartmatic-TIM, to conduct the automated elections.
“I have no doubt that the elections will push through. If [elections in] some areas are postponed, the proclamation might be delayed. But we should allow the election to take its course,” he said.
Monsod added: “In any case, there’s always a backup manual. I would not jump to conclusions, ‘Oh, this is a crisis.’ I don’t think it’s in the card.”
Monsod said he was confident the Comelec and Smartmatic could deliver the PCOS machines, with the reconfigured cards, in most parts of the country before Election Day.
“Most of the machines will be delivered on time and tested. If the tests are positive, then they can proceed with the elections in most precincts. I’m not worried about a massive failure of elections. I don’t think that will happen,” he said.
If at all, given the logistics problem, the machines might not arrive on time in far-flung areas, and in this case, the Comelec would have to defer the elections there for two days, Monsod said.
“They may be able to do it in 48 hours. I don’t think you have to postpone it in 15 days. Let them do it with much less than that,” the former Comelec head said. “Postponing it might raise all kinds of suspicion. The people are very edgy.”
A massive failure of elections was far-fetched because there would be “backup systems, including manual,” Monsod added.
“It’s very important for all of us to learn patience. We must be patient. This is a totally new system. There’s little time for preparation. But we made a national decision to do this. And we must do our best to make it succeed,” he said.
Less arrogant Smartmatic
He said the elections were not about President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “It’s about us as a country carrying out this project despite the odds and difficulties. We should avoid knee-jerk reaction about conspiracies and cheating.”
The foul-ups, Monsod pointed out, might just prove to be a “blessing in disguise” for the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM.
“Smartmatic has been properly chastised by this experience and should be less arrogant. And if it had any thought to cheat, it will think a hundred times about doing it given the mood of the people. That would be a big mistake,” he said.
The Comelec, for its part, might now realize the “need for a more inclusive rather than exclusive approach to managing the process,” Monsod said.
“It needs everybody’s help to overcome this huge logistical and credibility problem, and we should help,” he added.