Ensuring the credibility of the 2016 elections

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Part 3

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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 guide questions given to five 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.

The second part that came out yesterday had the position of the Civil Society Organization (CSO).

Today and found below is the position of the IT — Information Technology Sector,

Concerns/Issues: Non-transparency of the Automated Election System (AES) used in 2010 and 2013 elections. Smartmatic failed to comply with all the technical provisions of RA 9369, nothwithstanding their flawed implementation of their Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system in the 2008 ARMM elections. Non-promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9369 by Comelec. Finally, absence of effective Automated Election System project management.

Causes: Loss of independence as the contracts for the AES implementation were practically all given to Smartmatic when in fact the AES project could have been broken into chunks. The recommendations of the Comelec Advisory Council were ignored (e.g., Comelec should not have exercised the option to purchase (OTP) the AES in 2010 as it had encountered too many problems). Other government agencies’ assessment were also ignored (e.g., the Government Procurement Policy Board of the Department of the Budget in 2012 told Comelec, “The contractual relation between Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM, specifically on the exercise by the former of the OTP is deemed automatically terminated upon expiration of the option on 31 December 2010.” Comelec didn’t want to listen to independent assessments of AES Watch. Comelec failed to attain the strategic plan defined in its Comelec Strategy from 2011 to 2016 or COMSTRAT 1116 (e.g. to improve the institutional and organizational capacity and accountability of the Comelec for managing and implementing modernized and credible electoral processes; to resolve election cases in an efficient, transparent, and credible manner; to harmonize all election laws, rules and regulations through the passage of a new Omnibus Election Code that is complete, updated, clear and responsive to the requirements of an automated system; and to enhance a strong and continuing partnership with external stakeholders domestic and international).

Solution: To ensure compliance with RA 9369, the solution that the IT sector sees is to restructure and create a credible Project Management Office (PMO) composed of Comelec professionals with independent subject matter experts (SMEs) from the industry. And for the COMSTRAT 1116 and future strategic management plans to prosper, Comelec has to assign a dedicated commissioner with SMEs from the business sector.

Recommendation: The IT sector recommends the creation of the following teams in the proposed restructured PMO for 2016 elections composed of Comelec officials complemented with independent SMEs: Regional Teams with SMEs from the IT industry as managers; Test Certification Group with SMEs from the IT industry (i.e., closely coordinates with the Technical Evaluation Committee to perform source code review, user acceptance certification, integration test certification and other IT-related test certifications), Communications Group with SMEs from Institute of Electronics and Communications Engineering of the Philippines and Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation (i.e., to handle the electronic transmission of election results), Data Center Operations Group with SMEs from the IT industry (i.e., to operate the AES data processing); Legal Group with SMEs from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (i.e., to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and contracts related to the implementation of elections in 2016); Human Resources Group with subject matter experts from the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) (i.e., to do training and development of all required manpower resources like the BEIs, BOCs, IT personnel, etc.); and, Auditing Group with SMEs from Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants and auditing firms (i.e., an independent team reporting to the Project Steering Committee to do auditing activities to ensure credible 2016 elections).

SMEs from the Management Association of the Philippines and other business organizations should also be tapped to help Comelec in achieving its strategic plans.

Lastly, the IT Sector also recommends the adoption and implementation of the TCrES and the Canvassing and Consolidation System developed by Comelec’s IT Department in 2012.

(Tomorrow we will publish the last part, which will be on the Comelec’s paper.)

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