Will the Commission on Elections (Comelec) extend its Strategic Plan 2011 – 2016 (COMSTRAT 1116) to 2022? If yes, will Comelec call it “COMSTRAT 1722?” If no, will it come up with a new strategic plan for 2017 to 2022? You may refer to the 10 pillars of COMSTRAT 1116 at http://www.manilatimes.net/fearless-forecasts-did-happen/255719/ .
Reviewing COMSTRAT 1116, the only relevant pillar that Comelec should focus on for the next national and local elections (NLEs) is Strategic Pillar No. 4: Legal Policy and Framework. As posted at https://www.facebook.com/Comelec-Strategic-Plan-2011-2016-157546317648393/, the Comelec stated that: “The piecemeal amendments to the Code have made it difficult for us to administer elections and enforce election laws. These have also caused confusion among our stakeholders. For us to effectively perform our mandate, updating and rationalizing the legal and policy framework governing elections is a priority concern that we need to address.”
Most of the other pillars should have been completed before the elections in 2016 or the Comelec may either drop (e.g., information technology-based project management pillars) or continue finishing those pending pillars (e.g., Strategic Pillar No. 8: Integrity and Accountability).
Four years ago, the commission started revising the 1985 Omnibus Election Code. So far, we haven’t heard of any development.
In the past three decades, so many technological advancements in the field of Information Technology (IT) have emerged making the ladderized submission of election results from the precincts to the national board of canvassing practically obsolete. But how can we expect Strategic Pillar no. 4 to succeed when even the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 9369 (Automated Elections System law) have not been promulgated by Comelec? Hence, it is a question of management commitment on the part of the Comelec chairman to really push the right thing to do.
There is still no word from the Comelec on what it plans to do from 2017 to 2022. Poll officials were too busy with their preparations for the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections. Unfortunately, both houses of the 17th Congress agreed to postpone the polls next year. President Rodrigo Duterte supported the move, saying drug money may influence the elections.
Chairman Andres Bautista should call on stakeholders to work on Strategic Pillar No. 4 and correspondingly plan for the 2019 and 2022 NLEs. The authors of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) and AES law, as well as AES Watch, NAMFREL, members of the academe, religious organizations and other credible stakeholders may be convened in a workshop to draft a revised OEC.
Some considerations for the “COMSTRAT 1722” should also be given attention. For example, what will the Comelec do with the 82,000 PCOS machines acquired in 2012 through a lease- to-purchase agreement with Smartmatic? Will these be discarded after six years just like what happened with the 1,991 Automated Counting Machines (ACMs) which were supposedly intended for the automation of 2004 NLEs? The ACMs were not used in 2010 for the simple reason that these were declared obsolete. Today, the PCOS machines have aged six years. Following the same argument for the ACMs, will the PCOS machines be declared obsolete? In both cases, we paid billions of pesos for these machines. Besides, we are still paying for the warehousing of these machines.
What else should Comelec consider for the “COMSTRAT 1722?” It’s very obvious that they need to reflect on what happened in the last three NLEs. Officials have to review the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearings, understand the recommendations of the poll advisory councils and election watchdogs through the years, scrutinize the problems encountered through the use of data analytics, comprehend their interpretations of the AES law vis-a-vis the ruling of the Supreme Court and the real intentions of the law, accept the reality that managing IT projects like AES implementation is not their core competence and should be passed on to, say, experts at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and collaborate more with telecommunications companies and the Armed Forces of the Philippines when transmitting election results.
Another serious concern that the Comelec should include in “COMSTRAT 1722” is the cleansing of the voters’ database and making its website friendly and interactive. The Comelec may need the full assistance of the DICT.
On the other hand, Strategic Pillar No. 8, which tackles integrity and accountability should be further improved. Commissioner Bing Guanzon may have to partner with Chairman Bautista to seriously contemplate how to attain a more defined strategic objective concerning integrity development action plan and strengthening the Comelec’s Internal Audit Office for the permanent monitoring of various programs affecting accountabilities, responsibilities and values formation.
Hopefully by the end of this year, AES Watch will see Comelec’s strategic grand plan for 2017 to 2022.