Fidel Fababier

Melo: Poll failure is pure fantasy

Melo: Poll failure is pure fantasy
By Miriam Desacada
The Philippine Star

TACLOBAN CITY – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo yesterday reassured the public that a failure of elections on May 10 is “pure fantasy.”

“I am informing the public that there will be no failure of elections in May, that this (scenario) is purely fantasy as we have been preparing for this and we expect everything to turn out well with the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines,” Melo told a joint press conference of the Comelec, Armed Forces, Philippine National Police and the Department of Education after a meeting with local authorities here and the signing of a peace covenant with Eastern Visayas candidates.

Melo said they do not discount the possibility of having minor problems in the local levels but said these will certainly not be caused by glitches in the machines.

Melo also allayed fears that the rotating blackouts being experienced in some parts of the country may affect the results of the polls since the PCOS machines have batteries that may run until the end of voting time and the results will immediately be released.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento added that in case a PCOS machine breaks down, there are spare units that could be used.

Sarmiento added that in case all of the machines bog down, counting and canvassing could be done manually because there’s a paper trail of printed ballots that could be counted and canvassed manually.

A total of 82,200 PCOS machines have been leased by the Comelec from Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. but 6,700 of these will serve as spare units.

Sarmiento also said that as long as voters go to their respective precincts to cast their votes, the coming polls would not likely fail.

Melo also reiterated that the printing of the 50 million ballots needed for the country’s first automated polls will be completed before the end of April.

3 serious concerns

Six electoral reform groups yesterday expressed three “serious concerns” that the Comelec should address barely two months before the May 10 polls.

In a joint statement, the Automated Election System Watch, National Movement for Free Elections, Kontra Daya, De La Salle University-Caucus, National Secretariat for Social Action and the Center for People Empowerment in Governance said Filipinos should “prepare for all contingencies” because the Comelec is ill-prepared for the automated polls.

The groups noted that there is “lack of proper safeguards plugged into the vulnerabilities of the automated election system especially its internal security system.”

Aside from this, they said there is an “alarming possibility” of election failure due to the “absence of mechanisms for voter verifiability, general instructions for legal adjudication, as well as imminent power and transmission failures and other critical problems.”

They added that the Comelec is not transparent “in involving and dealing with independent citizens’ groups over their valid election-related concerns.”

Inadequate window time

Public school teachers, meantime, lambasted the Comelec for failing to address their concerns on inadequate “window time” for mentors serving in the coming May 2010 polls to go to their precincts and vote.

Fidel Fababier, secretary-general of the Action and Solidarity for the Empowerment of Teachers (ASSERT), said Comelec Resolution 8798 failed to solve the problem posed by a provision of Comelec Resolution 8786 that gave teachers merely 20 minutes to be late or away from their designated precincts on election day for them to go to the precincts where they are registered and cast their votes.

Fababier bewailed that Comelec Resolution 8798 merely increased the window time from 20 to 30 minutes.

“Since the precincts are clustered due to automation, we find it impossible for a teacher performing his or her duty on election day to be able to dash off to her registered precinct, squeeze through the throng of voters and finish casting a vote within the 30-minute window allowed by the resolution,” Fababier pointed out.

“In fact, the resolution is so impractical as to be laughable. What this means would be massive disenfranchisement of educators. How can teachers cast their votes, when they’re not allowed sufficient time to vote?” added Fababier.

According to ASSERT, the new Comelec ruling may prevent thousands of teachers from voting, as they would not risk earning the stiff penalties imposed by the commission on tardiness or abandonment of duty. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Rainier Allan Ronda