• Ensuring the credibility of the 2016 elections

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    This is the continuation of the LFIT! column by Nelson Celis published on Tuesday May 13. Part 3 will be published on Friday.

    THE National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), in cooperation with the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), held its first of a series of forums on April 24, 2015 at the AIM Conference Center, to address the four (4) guide questions given to five (5) sectors on how to ensure the credibility of the coming May 2016 national and local elections.

    These questions are:
    1. What, in your sector’s view, are the top five concerns or issues that could affect the credibility of the 2016 elections? (Concerns/Issues)

    2. What might explain why such issues or concerns exist, and what other factors or conditions contribute to it? (Causes)

    3. How should these be addressed? Which different groups and agencies should work to address them? (Solutions)

    4. What are your sector’s expectations from the 24 April discussion, and what tasks or activities should be carried out after? (Recommendations)

    The first part published on May 13 gave a summary of the papers given by the Business and the Political Parties sectors.

    Civil Society Organization (CSO)
    The following is the summary of the paper of the Civil Society Organization (CSO).

    Concerns/Issues: Appointment of chairman and two commissioners in Comelec (done already) who would not only act with independence and impartiality but would also contribute to the credibility and effective management of the 2016 elections. There are at least 4.7 million registered voters with no biometrics data yet as of March 1, 2015 some 2 million of them could be disenfranchised due to strict implementation of the Biometrics Law. as reflected in the report of CSOs, the election fraud has shifted to vote buying instead of stealing the ballot boxes and this resulted in the increase of election offenses. election violence in Mindanao became worsE due to the derailment of the peace process.

    The CSO may not agree on which system to use for 2016 elections, but the sector sees Comelec faced with several options: conduct transparent bidding for the refurbishment of existing PCOS machines; use the 23,000 newly acquired machines as Central Count Optical Scan (CCOS); ask Congress for additional budget to procure additional counting machines; use Transparent and Credible Election System (TCrES) as proposed by Gus Lagman; and hold manual elections.

    Cause:The relationship between the Comelec and the CSO has always been bittersweet since time immemorial. The roots of this can be traced even before the institution of the current Republic – “the CSO have always been at the sideline of the Commission’s dealings.” Because of this, the CSO has developed distrust in the agency, and as a result, Comelec perceived the CSO as their critics.

    Solution: It is time for Comelec to develop a more collaborative and open relationship with CSO as both parties should be receptive of each other’s ideas. CBCP-NASSA explains, “We need to have clear and doable principles, guidelines and directives for actions towards clean, authentic and responsible elections. We need everybody to participate in ensuring common good. But we need to mention especially the engagement of the academe, the students, the business, media, civil societies, judiciary especially those government agencies headed by nonpolitician or non-appointive heads.”

    Recommendations: On what system to use in 2016 elections, the CSO recommends that all stakeholders, especially IT experts, should be consulted and engaged in selecting the system. Comelec should find ways to improve the system of prosecution related to election violations, and Comelec should establish closer relationship with CSO in order to curb the incidences of vote buying and find newer ways to educate the electorate, especially the youth with regard to their right of suffrage.

    Philippine Center for Civic Education and Democracy (PCCED) said, “While it is important to focus all our attention to ensuring credible and meaningful elections in 2016, we need to stop addressing electoral issues in an ad hoc, sporadic fashion. We need to lay the foundation for a sustained effort to advocate reforms in our electoral process. From PCCED’s perspective, we hope we can begin the task of designing and implementing a civic education program that would develop good citizens and not just wise voters.”

    (End of Part 2)

    Part 3 “The Information Technology (IT) sector’s position” will be published tomorrow.

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    1 Comment

    1. COMELEC needs a continuing sustained program, learning from its experiences in automated elections, providing improvements and solutions to deficiencies encountered. I didn’t see these in 2013, where problems encountered in 2010 were not resolved in 2013 and in fact there were additional deficiencies that could have altogether been avoided.
      In the bid specs for the 23,000 OMR for 2016, the recommended improvements such as back office printing of voters’ slip, replacement of CF cards, among others were not considered. These are major weaknesses in the automated system which have been exploited in 2013 by knowledgeable parties.