Comelec: Poll results known in 3 days
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The results of the country’s first automated general elections will be known within three days.
This was announced by Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez after business groups said they feared the new system would fail.
The Philippines has brought in the nationwide automated system to replace the laborious manual system that took weeks to tabulate results, but influential business groups have called for a manual count as a backup.
In a statement Wednesday, the Management Association of the Philippines urged the Comelec to adopt a parallel nationwide manual count for the president and vice president to “mitigate, if not eliminate, the skepticism of many about the credibility of the automated election system and the results that it will deliver.”
The Comelec is prepared to shift to a manual count if ballot-counting machines fail to function in up to 30 percent of more than 76,300 precincts nationwide during the May 10 polls, said Jimenez.
A failure to elect a successor to President Arroyo by the time she is supposed to step down on June 30 is “almost inconceivable,” he said.
“We are looking at two to three days for the release of the national data … but as far as the proclamation of president and vice president (is concerned), you have to wait for Congress,” Jimenez told a forum by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Under the Constitution, the Senate and the House of Representatives must convene not later than 30 days after the elections to officially count votes for the president and vice president and proclaim the winners.
Voters also will be electing senators, congressmen, provincial, city and municipal officials on May 10. These votes will also be counted using the automated system.
Random manual audit
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said yesterday the random manual audit of ballots should be done after the proclamation of candidates so as not to delay the election process.
“It should be after. If you do it before proclamation, then objections, challenges can be raised. If it happens, the process and proclamation of candidates will be delayed. It might defeat the purpose of full automation. That’s the concern of the Comelec,” Sarmiento told reporters.
Sarmiento said they are set to promulgate their resolution soon after reducing the report of the technical working group.
Electoral reform groups have asked the Comelec to conduct a wider manual audit of ballots before the proclamation of election winners because a limited one would cast doubt on the results of the automated polls.
Poll watchdog groups have been pushing for the random manual audit before the proclamation, saying doing it after the proclamation would render it useless.
Comelec critics claimed that in the event that there is a discrepancy between the results of the automated and manual count, the rest of the ballot boxes should be opened and be counted manually so winners can be proclaimed.
Sarmiento said that they have already decided to increase the number of precincts to be subjected to random manual audit.
“Now we have increased the audit to five, so it’s a higher number and make the precincts to be audited more representative,” Sarmiento said.
The random manual audit will be conducted by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) not belonging to the selected precinct.
The Poll Automation Law stipulates the conduct of manual audit in a single precinct per legislative district, randomly selected by the Comelec.
A ballot box from the selected precinct will be audited to check if the ballots in it had been counted properly by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine.
JDV3 seeks parallel manual count
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) senatorial candidate Joey de Venecia III sought yesterday a parallel manual count in the May 10 elections to protect the people’s right to choose their leader.
De Venecia said the parallel manual count will guarantee the credibility of the results of the May 10 elections.
“The Commission on Elections is well advised to heed the snowballing call for the conduct of a manual count of the votes to be cast in the May 10 elections side-by-side with the automated tally of the ballots of 50 million registered voters,” De Venecia said.
However, De Venecia said the 30 percent contingency manual ballots of the Comelec are not enough.
De Venecia said the Comelec must print enough manual ballots for the entire number of voters to cover the looming probability of widespread failure of the PCOS machines and automated count ballots as foreshadowed by last weekend’s overseas automated voting in Hong Kong.
He said it was not enough that Comelec has claimed to have set aside enough manual tally ballots to cover 30 percent of the entire electorate in case of a failure in the automated voting system, since it has no way to determine where and when the PCOS machines would bog down on election day.
“About five thousand voting machines are kept in reserve. How do we know that these five thousand are kept in a safe place? More importantly, how does the Comelec hope to distribute these to the areas where they are needed on election day?” De Venecia said.
Comelec may review gun ban
The Comelec may revisit its policies on the total gun ban, following the recent attacks against judges, an official said yesterday.
According to Commissioner Sarmiento, the recent atrocities against judges and the appeal of the Supreme Court (SC) to exempt them from the gun ban might warrant a review of Comelec Resolution 8742 implementing a total gun ban.
“The Comelec will revisit the rules with these judges facing threats to their life, especially during this election period. They are the ones who will try electoral protests,” he added.
SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez has reiterated a request for the 2,000 judges nationwide to be exempted from the gun ban.
Under the resolution, only the members of the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies are allowed to carry firearms provided that they are on duty and in uniform.
Other individuals can apply for security escorts with the Comelec if they feel there is a threat to their safety.
The Comelec is also now seriously considering holding early voting in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) despite the absence of an enabling law on this.
Sarmiento said the agency would hold next week a hearing on a pending petition to hold advance voting in ARMM. Political parties have been invited to the hearing.
He said aside from ARMM, other “traditionally hot spot areas” like Abra, Nueva Ecija and Masbate might be subjected to early voting if such is approved.
“We’ll do our best if it will help the election to make it credible, especially in these problematic areas,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Comelec has shelved the signing of a contract to supply some 228,000 padlocks to be used to secure ballot boxes.
Commissioner Armando Velasco said the suspension was made to review the petition of bidder Atlanta Industries Corp. which questioned the notice of award given to Neutron Construction and Marketing Corp. – AP, Helen Flores, Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo