Be prudent on deals, Comelec urged

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THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to be circumspect in making deals for the handling of the automated elections for 2016.

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“We urge the Comelec to be circumspect in respect to deals and contracts for the handling of automated elections, to avoid a defensive posture and most certainly to be free of bias towards any particular service provider,” CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.

Villegas said that the Catholic “bishops have been apprised of the vulnerability of the current system.”

“Speaking on their own authority as shepherds of the people, some of my brother bishops have expressed their serious concern over deals that Comelec appears to be poised to enter into in respect to the automation of the forthcoming elections,” he said.

Noting that some “credible reports” on the failures of the automated election system in previous elections, Villegas emphasized that the “accurate election results are not only a political concern.”

“In fact, there have been credible reports of failures of the system, putting serious doubts on the electoral process . . . they are morally significant as they have to do with the expression of the people’s will and the exercise of fundamental political rights,” he said.

Election watchdogs have staged a series of protests before the Comelec to ask the poll body to rescind its controversial resolution granting Smartmatic an extended warranty for the repairs of more than 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Based on reports, the old PCOS machines will be refurbished, as they will be recycled for the 2016 polls.

Meanwhile, Villegas urged “Catholic lay leaders who have expertise in the information technology industry to constitute themselves as watchdogs and guardians so that the system provider chosen may truly be able to set up a credible, efficient and effective system.”

“Our Catholic universities and colleges with information technology departments should offer their services, their evaluation and put forward appropriate corrections of shortcomings,” he said.

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