• A year after the 2016 elections, are we finished yet?

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    AL S. VITANGCOL III

    EXACTLY a year has passed since the last national and local elections. Many of the losing candidates are rejoicing – not over their defeat – but because they can now be appointed to their chosen government posts. It goes without saying that these losers are allied with the present administration.

    This one-year appointment ban after an election is a fail-safe measure in our Constitution. No candidate who has lost in any election shall, within one year after such election, be appointed to any office in the government or any government- owned or controlled corporation or in any of their subsidiaries. The same goes for losing candidates in local elections, excepting candidates in barangay elections.

    But, there is another important issue that has lapsed a year after the May 9, 2016 elections, which no one has been paying attention to. This is the mandatory review of the immediately preceding election by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC).

    What is the JCOC?

    The JCOC is an oversight committee which is composed of seven members each from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The primary function of the committee is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Automated Election Systems (AES) Law.

    The senator-members of the JCOC are Leila de Lima, Francis Pangilinan, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes 4th, and Francis Escudero.

    I was not able to get the JCOC members from the House. The information is not on their website nor is it listed in the committees, or variants of the committees. Calling them is useless – none of the relevant offices knew anything about it. I spent 30 minutes on the telephone being passed from one office to another.

    The oversight committee should conduct a mandatory review of the AES every 12 months from the date of the last regular national or local elections, or specifically a year after the conduct of the 2016 elections.
    Have they done this mandatory review of the AES?

    In fact, the oversight committee should have conducted a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the performance of the AES technologies implemented and should “make appropriate recommendations to Congress, in session assembled.”

    Have they made such an evaluation of the technologies used and made appropriate recommendations to Congress?

    My insight tells me that they have not on both counts.

    What should be in the report?

    The law requires that an assessment and comparison of “each of the AES technologies utilized, including their strengths, weakness, applicability or inapplicability in specific areas and situations” be made.

    How could this be done when we are shackled to the AES technology of a single provider, Smartmatic-TIM?
    Verily, the AES can be implemented by using different technologies in different areas. It follows then that these different technologies can be provided by different suppliers – not only from a single provider like Smartmatic-TIM.

    The accuracy of these AES technologies should be evaluated and similarly be included in the report. The evaluation of their accuracy could be done through a “comparison of a random sample of the AES election results with a manual tabulation”, and the conduct of similar tests.

    Finally, the report should have a recommendation if a particular AES technology, which was used in the last election, would no longer be utilized for being obsolete, inapplicable, inaccurate or with a defect which cannot be remedied.

    For sure, the vote counting machines (VCM) have multiple perceived defects, which cannot be remedied. Will the JCOC recommend the phasing out of the VCM?

    Obsolete provisions of the AES Law

    Republic Act 9369, or the AES Law, has provisions relative to the functions of the JCOC, which have already been superseded by events. To take just one example, the law provides that the JCOC recommend whether to adopt a full or partial—or not—of a particular AES technology.

    This function of the JCOC is already passé. The reality is that we already have a full implementation of the AES. There is no more need for the JCOC to decide to go partial or full implementation, or not at all, of the AES.

    Role of Congress

    Can someone in Congress stand up and propose amendments to the AES Law, if not totally scrapping and replacing it with a new one?

    The primary role of Congress is to enact laws. Part of this role is to see to it that laws are brought up to date and in tune with the needs of the times.

    However, it seems that Congress is more interested in conducting hearings, supposedly in aid of legislation, but in actuality just for these “honorable” men to grandstand and while away their time.

    Anyway, once the voters are tired and fed up, they will surely change these legislators come the next election – if the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM tandem will allow it.

    allinsight.manilatimes@gmail.com
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