The Commission on Elections (Comelec) would not be violating Republic Act 9669 or the automated election system (AES) law if it decided to conduct the 2016 elections using the proposed hybrid polling system, according to a lawmaker.
While the hybrid election system involves manual voting and precinct counting, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said over the weekend, it also supports electronic transmission and canvassing that are in accordance with the AES law.
“I believe that the spirit of the law is to improve the election system, so this hybrid is an improvement from the old manual system, which is prone to cheating and abuse from the precinct counting up to the national canvassing,” Pimentel noted in a radio interview aired on Sunday over dzBB.
The hybrid system to which Pimentel was referring is the Precinct Automated Tallying System or PATaS, which was introduced by an information technology (IT) group—Filipino Information Technology for Elections (FIT4E)— during mock elections conducted by the Comelec last June 27 in Bacoor City, Cavite.
Under the PATaS system, voting will be manual wherein, instead of shading the number of candidates, voters need to write the names of candidates on the ballot.
The votes will then be counted manually and tallied using traditional Manila paper and computers.
In turn, they will be encoded and verified and the precinct results will be electronically transmitted to the Municipal Board of Canvassers and the Central Verification Server.
Transmission will be followed by automated consolidation and canvassing of votes at the municipal, provincial and national levels.
Compared to the automated election system using the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, PATaS is seen as more transparent because people can see how their votes are counted.
But several lawmakers are against the proposed hybrid system, saying it is a step backward from the current automation.
Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, however, has maintained that the automated election system is still the best option in 2016 and using a “hybrid” would pave the way for electoral cheating.
Escudero said the proposal to conduct combined manual voting and automated counting of votes in next year’s polls would not only defeat the purpose of computerizing the elections but could also lead to wide-scale fraud similar to what happened during the 2004 presidential elections.
Pimentel, chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, said PCOS and PATaS both have their respective advantages and disadvantages and it is up to the Comelec to decide which is the better option.
He also noted that with PCOS machines, election results can be determined faster but the electorate cannot see how the their votes are counted, while with the hybrid system, counting is transparent but the downside is it could delay release of results by eight to 10 hours.
PATaS is also P4 billion to P5 billion cheaper than the reported budget of Smartmatic and another proponent.
The Comelec can use both the PCOS machines and PATaS in 2016 in case of shortage of the machines.