MILLIONS of Filipino voters queued up for hours at different Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices all over the country to have their biometrics read and recorded, otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Then all of a sudden Comelec Boss Andres Bautista announced that the old system of verifying voters’ identities would still be used in the 2016 elections.
The old voters’ list would be used in the precincts.
There was apparently no real need for the biometric voter verification system (VVS). And he said there was a possibility the electronic scanner for validating fingerprints would go out of order and delay the voting.
This is another case of the Comelec not really knowing what it is doing. It was so keen about the biometric verification system. It had a budget of P727 million (which included the expenses for the Sangguniang Bayan elections. But lawyer Glenn Chong sees some malfeasance here. He says Bautista realigned the P727-million so he could use it to pay for the lease of some 70,000 plus PCOS or OMR machines in next year’s elections.
Our Columnist Atty. Dodo Dulay recalls that biometrics registration is mandated by Republic Act 10367, or the Mandatory Biometrics Registration Act of 2013. The aim of the law is to rid the voters list of the names of flying voters.
“Comelec’s biometrics project dubbed “No-Bio, No-Boto,” which was the subject of a multi-million peso public relations campaign, was welcomed by Filipino voters,” Mr. Dulay observed. “It was seen by many as an important upgrade of our election process and another layer to protect our votes. Now here comes the Comelec suddenly junking our biometric data for the good old pen-and-paper verification.”
We agreed with him: If the poll body wasn’t going to use our biometric information anyway, why did it have to set an October 31 deadline? Why not continue the registration and updating of voter information until January 10, 2016, or 120 days before the regular elections?
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridonn had alleged in his lawsuit against the Commission, “the Supreme Court has already ruled that the Comelec cannot prematurely terminate the continuing registration of voters before the prohibitive period of election registration defined under the law – 120 days before the regular elections.”
And wasn’t the whole idea, Mr. Dulay asked, “behind the biometrics registration to use the digitized voter information in a biometric-enabled balloting to ensure a fraud-free election.
“Without a biometric-enabled voting in the 2016 polls, the “No Bio-No Boto” campaign was not only a waste of taxpayer money, it was also an unforgivable waste of people’s time and expectations. It also means the Comelec cannot guarantee a clean, fair and accurate election in 2016.”
“The Philippines has scrapped biometric voter authentication in favor of a manual verification process that has, for the longest time, enabled crooked politicians to rig the elections. This is especially true in the remote areas of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao – the favorite playground of ‘dagdag bawas’ operators.
“Without a biometric voter verification setup, Comelec cannot claim that our election system is truly automated – or transparent, fair, credible and accurate. The integrity of all electoral systems starts with ensuring that the voter is actually qualified to cast his or her ballot. Otherwise, automation means we’ve merely computerized the counting and transmission of votes. Whose votes? That’s the $64 question.”