THE automated 2016 synchronized national and local elections, despite some shortcomings, were by far most credible and peaceful, far better than the past two automated polls held in 2010 and 2013, according to an independent international and strategic research organization.
But political analyst Ramon Casiple, chairman, Consortium on Electoral Reforms, pointed out on Friday that findings of Stratbase ADR Institute (Stratbasse) would not affect former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ protest against results of the vice presidential elections, now pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
“While election stakeholders see the need to improve in some specific aspects of the election process such as the terms of the minimum system requirements stated in the Automated Election System (AES) Law, these do not detract from the credible and orderly conduct of the 2016 elections,” Dr. Franciso Magno said in a research paper he had written entitled “Technology, Democracy and Elections in the Philippines,” which he presented in a media briefing at the Tower Club of PhilAm Life Tower in Makati City.
Magno is trustee and program convenor of the Governance Program of Stratbase ADR Institute.
According to Casiple, the problem in the Marcos’ case is not actually the substance of the complaint but time, saying the “protest is following the same traditional process and ultimately the problem there is time.”
“It has no material effect. I don’t think it will be introduced as evidence in the case,” he told reporters.
Dropping of case
Casiple surmised that a recent petition of the Marcos camp to assign three commissioners to handle the case was part of its strategy to push the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to make the process faster even as he pointed out that historically it had never happened that the electoral tribunal decided on the matter on time.
He expressed belief that the whole thing will possibly reach the 2019 senatorial elections.
In such a scenario, Casiple said, Marcos will have to decide whether he will run for the Senate or continue with the protest because running for an elective position will basically have an impact on the case, which will ultimately lead to dropping of the case.
“The [electoral tribunal]usually says it will be moot and academic. That the interest is not there anymore and they will just drop the case,” he added, citing as an example the protest of then-senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago against Fidel Ramos, who won the 1992 presidential elections.
On the protest of former senator Manuel Roxas 2nd against then-Vice President Jejomar Binay, Casiple pointed out that it was decided late by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal when both parties had already filed their candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections.
“That is a real risk that the Marcos camp will have to face. The tactic I think now is trying to push the [electoral tribunal]to make the process faster, that’s the reason behind the proposal of three simultaneous commissioners to handle the cases. But I don’t think it will lead to that,” he said.
“So the possibility of Marcos being proclaimed, for example, is not due to the content or the substance of the protest, the more important element is time. Will it reach that point where they can end the whole process of recount?” according to Casiple.
In giving a positive assessment of the results of the 2016 elections, Magno cited results of a random manual audit (RMA) of almost 700 clustered polling precincts that showed 99.9 percent accuracy.
The RMA Committee is composed of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and Philippine Statistics Authority.
Magno said the Comelec is yet to tap several avenues to further improve the election system in the country.
Among them, he added, is to explore ways to intensify current efforts and work alongside political parties and civil society organizations to fully utilize social media to reach the youth and encourage their participation in elections.
Also, Magno said, the poll body should consider alternative registration procedures for indigenous peoples (IPs) and for person with disabilities (PWDs), and the appointment as well of a fourth polling official in busier precincts to mitigate potential bottlenecks in polling.
RMA protocols, he also pointed out, should carefully distinguish between ballot marks not scanned in accordance with vote counting machine settings from outright failure of VCM scanning.
It was proposed that the term “digital signature” should be placed in the law, and be defined as an amendment to the AES Law.
The study suggested that the source code review should not be limited to only reading the codes but should also allow the use of software tools to test the system, and for the poll body to restore the national and local elections 2016 results on its website or on a separate one linked to its official website for enhanced transparency and public access.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said they were very pleased with the conclusion of the Stratbasse study even as he assured that the poll body would continue to look for ways to make the election process better.
On the Marcos protest, Bautista added, the Comelec is neutral.
“That matter is now with the [Presidential Electoral Tribunal], which is our Supreme Court (SC). As I said, we are here to support and have the SC perform its constitutional duty to resolve the protest. We will provide whatever information they need. We have no participation at this point,” he said.