• ‘Hybrid’ elections better than PCOS

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    IT is encouraging to know that the Commission on Elections is considering the proposed hybrid election system. We believe the system will ensure transparency without sacrificing the speed of the process. And contrary to the propaganda against it, the hybrid system is unlike the manual voting of old. Instead, voting will still be manual, but canvassing will be automated.

    After two national elections, the PCOS machines have failed to win people’s trust. Initially, suspicions stemmed from the Comelec’s refusal to allow a public review of the machines’ source code to check for any manipulation of the software’s programming. In 2013, this issue fueled talk of election rigging as supposedly evidenced by the 60-30-10 pattern in the outcome of the senatorial race.

    Actually, many issues hold back public acceptance of the PCOS machines. The digital signatures feature was deactivated, which was to be used by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in transmitting election returns. Also deactivated was the ultraviolet light detector, which was designed to allow the PCOS machines to verify the authenticity of the ballots by scanning the security marks printed on them.

    Then there is also the accuracy of the PCOS. In the last elections, the machines were reportedly 99.97 percent accurate, which fell short of the original requirement of at least 99.995 percent accuracy. A slight difference of .03 percent meant more than a million votes in the last polls, more than enough to push a senatorial candidate from the cusp and into the winners’ circle.

    Major hurdles ahead
    Admittedly, the hybrid option faces at least two major hurdles. One is time, at least for the 2016 elections. There may not be enough time to put together a new system for the next polls, even though a hybrid system proposes to use familiar technology such as desktops (or laptops) and modems. Still, setting it up and making it work smoothly will require training for the operators.

    The bigger hurdle may be in the insufficient number of teachers available to work as BEIs. There are only 630,000 public school teachers available to work as BEIs in a manual-voting system like the hybrid, against more than 900,000 that are required to fill that role.

    When the Comelec used the PCOS in the last elections, the commission organized precincts into clusters, which required only 250,000 BEIs. Besides, teacher groups have expressed their unwillingness to work in a hybrid system, partly because of the laborious task of tallying votes at the precinct level. And naturally, teachers also want to avoid exposure to political pressure and related threats that typically characterized their vote tallying experience.

    We are unsure whether the Comelec can overcome the major hurdles identified here. But we find some pronouncements by Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista to be promising.

    First, he said that he was committed to holding an election in 2016 as scheduled. The only thing worse than PCOS is to postpone the polls – a recipe for political disaster. Second, he seems committed to conducting clean and honest elections. People should give him a chance, and we support anyone who is for fair and credible elections.

    The best intentions of one person, however, may not be enough. The Comelec is a collegial body on top of a large organization with a complex structure. It is not easily whipped into shape. And the safeguards protecting its independence from political influence are also the reasons why change is so difficult to implement. But a chairman who is willing to listen gives us hope.

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    6 Comments

    1. angel s.paredes on

      with voters’ mistrust on comelec and current pcos machines- votersmust have a hand protect their votes, how a new voting machine must be made that has the features of a cash register that print out sort of a receipt with the names of persons voted.in this manner political parties can count votes casted per precint,localities,lgu, etc.

    2. the problem with smartmatic method is that their officials and cohorts became greedy and thus manipulated the election proceedings and results -thereby losing credibility and acceptance as good election process by most people.

    3. There are many IT Companies in our country that can develop an application for COMELEC for election purpose. So why spend a lot of taxpayers money to pay SMARTMATIC that is using unreliable system?

    4. Vic PenetranteVic on

      Time for Comelec to go for the best. The trend is for government agencies to go for the best ‘pocket-money’ makers.

    5. On June 18, 2015 your own paper reports “64% say no to manual count in 2016 polls.” Does not keep you from now claiming “After two national elections, the PCOS machines have failed to win people’s trust.” I understand, your editors are implementing a holy crusade againt the PCOS (why I have not understood so far). But at least do not twist the data!

    6. When there is a will, there is a way, as simple as this. Just like when the Comelec changed the system from manual to smartmatic, it was not easy for the concerned to adopt to a new system. There are always flaws expected. So the difficulties can be overcome if required.