IT’S the time of year again when we seek blessings for ourselves and our families, and the larger family that is our country.
As a national newspaper, the Times thinks at this time about our collective life as a nation, and how it can be made better.
It is easy to recount the year of trials and tribulations that is coming to a close.
But rather than focus on that, we say, let us focus our attention on the opportunities and challenges that are rising on the horizon to meet us.
Foremost among this is the holding of national elections in May next year, and the installation of a new presidential administration and a new Congress in June.
There is no prayer, no objective, and no task more worthy of the nation’s collective labor than ensuring that we successfully hold free, fair, orderly, transparent and credible elections next year. Each adjective is vital and indispensable.
This election is absolutely a watershed for the nation – a demarcation line between a time of disaster and failure and regression in national life, and hopefully a new time of transformation and change for the nation.
To reach this watershed, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) performs for us the inestimable duty of ensuring the integrity of the elections, and the neutralization of all attempts to derail, disrupt, and disfigure the balloting.
We were pleased to learn from the Comelec last week that it will be activating vital security features in the voting counting machines (VCMS) to ensure the credibility of the elections.
With the 2016 elections just five months away, now is preeminently the time for Comelec to squarely address all outstanding issues pertaining to the elections.
As it brings to an end by next week the contentions over the disqualification of certain candidates, Comelec should turn its undivided attention to its preparation for the balloting.
The Philippine automated election system (AES) project has been visited by many snags and anomalies. The Comelec, most especially under Chairman Brillantes, deliberately refused to carry out the requirements clearly mandated by the law establishing the Automated Election System. We must face the reality that the system remains imperfect and vulnerable–and mainly because the law is not being followed.
Given this, we as a nation must come up with the best solution possible under the circumstances.
The Comelec owes the nation the best that it can do. And no public good will be achieved by holding up the process in endless contention and debate.
There is one source of citizen anxiety that the poll body should squarely address, and this is the talk that the Aquino Administration intends to cheat in the balloting, in order to ensure the victory of its chosen candidates.
Under our constitutional system, the Commission on Elections alone has the supreme authority and responsibility to ensure the holding of free, fair, transparent, orderly and credible elections in the country. That authority and responsibility is not shared with the President of the Philippines, even if he appointed the members of the election Commission. Nor should that authority and responsibility be shared with and even delegated to the Automated Election System technology and equipment supplier as the previous Comelec Chairman did with Smartmatic.
Comelec, led by its chairman, Andres Bautista, must rise to the challenge. It must ensure that the 2016 elections will take place as scheduled, and with safeguards, electronic as well as physical, in place.
If contested with civility and conducted responsibly, the elections could provide a new beginning for our nation. By putting better leaders in place, it could spark the long-needed transformation of our country.
Conversely, if mismanaged and disfigured by fraud, the election could also spark instability and create a dark future for our country.
And so we say, this holiday season, we cannot think of a better gift to our people and our country, than a successful 2016 elections.