The series of articles regarding Fearless Forecast about the Commission on Election’s (Comelec) non-compliance with AES Law (Episode I) and e-Commerce Law (Episode II) in 2016 elections started to be published here in The Manila Times on December 30, 2015. Those forecasts undeniably happened!
The accuracy of the forecasts was based on the Comelec’s defiance of the principles of management that have long been categorized into four major functions of planning, leading, organizing, and controlling (Mintzberg, 1973; Dimovski &Penger, 2002). And applying those four functions to comply with the Automated Election System (AES) Law or Republic Act (RA) 9369 and e-Commerce Law or RA 8792, would need firm decisions based on the Comelec’s mission, vision and its laid strategic plan.
Let’s review some of the observations of AES Watch on how Comelec defied the management principles.
Planning 1. Out of the three (3) strategic plans crafted by Comelec in the past 24 years, the Comelec Strategy for 2011 to 2016 (COMSTRAT 1116) was a total failure under the leadership of former Chairman Brillantes. COMSTRAT 1116 could have been the best if implemented as it boasted of the following ten (10) pillars:
1. Election Administration – To improve the institutional and organizational capacity and accountability of the Comelec for managing and implementing modernized and credible electoral processes.
2. Electoral Dispute Adjudication – To resolve election cases in an efficient, transparent and credible manner.
3. Voter Education – To make voter education more effective and far-reaching by decentralizing the conduct thereof and improving the quality of education materials.
4. Legal Policy and Framework – 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 election system.
5. Field Office Empowerment – To make the field offices more autonomous on procurement and personnel matters to promote efficiency and effectiveness in responding to the needs of the employees and stakeholders.
6. Professional Competency – To establish a modern competency-based Human Resource Management System.
7. Technological Capability – To enhance the IT capability of Comelec to support the conduct of modernized, efficient, transparent and credible elections and election adjudication and to strengthen IT–capable personnel in their pursuit of supporting modernized elections.
8. Integrity and Accountability – To enhance the accountability and transparency of Comelec management and operations.
9. Linkages with External Stakeholders – To enhance a strong and continuing partnership with external stakeholders domestic and international.
10. Comelec Main Office Building and Field Offices – To construct Comelec’s own main office building and field offices for improved morale, efficiency and independence.
Planning 2. Comelec failed to plan early for the AES implementation in 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections. What is noticeable is a pattern that AES Watch observed regarding Comelec always projecting a ‘No more time’ scenario; an emergency case that pushes the stakeholders in a disadvantageous situation. Such should be controllable if at least Comelec would start the AES implementation project at least 18 months before the elections, excluding the bidding exercise. Within such period, the stakeholders and the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) would have ample time to comply with RA 9369. Hence, proper planning would give chance for appropriate conduct of source code review, rigid testing and certifications, extensive training and certification of BEIs and BOCs, voter education, mock elections, field testing, and other technical preparations. That means for the 2019 elections, the start of 2019 AES project implementation should be in January 2018.
Leading. The original version of AES Law or RA 8436 was enacted in 1997 and it was amended as RA 9369 in 2007. Both RA 8436 and RA 9369 stipulate that the Comelec shall promulgate rules and regulation for its implementation and enforcement. After almost 20 years, no Comelec chairman has ever pushed its en banc officials and senior staff to comply with this provision of the law in spite of so many lawyers within Comelec. Why? Is the AES Law hard to understand? Even the incumbent chairman alluded in JCOC hearings that the stakeholders should draft the IRR first and submit the same to them for review. Why not Comelec prepare the draft since the AES Law mandates them to do it! Will Comelec waste another 20 years? Where’s the leadership?
Organizing. The people behind the implementation of the 2010 and 2013 national and local elections (NLEs) are the same people behind the controversial AES in 2008 ARMM elections. But Comelec en banc never learned from the non-compliance with RA 9369 and RA 8792 in the said three elections, the same people are still assigned to handle the forthcoming 2016 elections. It will be a never-ending pattern of non-compliance.
Controlling. Non-compliance is just a manifestation of poor control.
In 2019 and 2022 NLEs, some of the incumbent Comelec en banc officials and, of course, career officers will still be around! AES Watch knows that Comelec’s vision and mission statements are yet to be espoused, especially by those career officers, for the realization of the new ‘COMSTRAT 1722’ under the leadership of Chairman Bautista, to wit:
Comelec vision: Independent, empowered and fully modernized institution conducting transparent electoral processes with credible result in strong partnership with election stakeholder.
Comelec mission: We, the guardians of the sovereign will of the Filipino people, in partnership with election stakeholders, commit ourselves to conduct free, honest, orderly, peaceful, fully automated and credible elections in order to build strong democratic institutions.
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With the hacking of the Comelec website on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, Comelec should seriously consider the recommendation of former Commissioner Lagman that the election results from the Municipal/City Board of Canvassing (M/CBOC) be the source of data to be posted in Comelec’s website instead of the data coming from Comelec’s central server. Data from central server passes through several layers after the M/CBOC. This was manifested during the last Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on March 23, 2016. Further, it will be very difficult for hackers to change the election results in almost 2,000 canvassing and consolidation servers as compared to one or two central servers.
Here’s an interesting point, NAMFREL’s Dammy Magbual shared that in Indonesia, election results from 600,000 precincts are transmitted directly to a public website! That could be another option that Comelec may consider by transmitting the elections results from 92,500 clustered precincts to a secure public website.