Voters’ confidence in poll process key to clean elections: Comelec

Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia speaks before participants of the 9th Congress of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in Baras, Rizal Saturday. Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

(Second of two parts)

MANILA - Feeling antsy about your vote? Not sure if an optical scanning machine will read rightly those painstakingly shaded areas of your Halalan 2016 ballot?

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is studying the possibility of giving voters a small window to double check the accuracy of the Precinct Count, Optical Scan (PCOS) machine during the coming May 9 polls.

“When you go automated and use technology, you sacrifice a little transparency,” Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia told participants of the 9th Congress of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

“Dati binibilang ang boto and tallied publicly – now, voters don’t know how the machine counts or if the count is right,” he added.

But Guia said the poll body is concerned the process could add to the time individual voters spend at the polling booth, thus causing longer lines in some 100,000 precincts nationwide.

“We’re kind of liking the verification feature,” said Guia. “But we’re still doing public hearings.”

Politicians, he pointed out, are creative in exploiting systems to their advantage.

“If 10 to 20 people in line start complaining, you will have very long lines,” the poll official said. The Comelec needs to study mechanisms to avoid the latter, while ensuring speedy action on discrepancies.

Watchers still crucial

Guia also urged political parties to marshal their forces to man all precincts and ensure tighter watch against fraud.

As in 2010 and 2013, once the voting closes, the machine will immediately print eight copies of election results before it is connected for transmission to the municipal level. The same process will happen in the municipal and provincial levels.

If parties have watchers at the precinct level, concerns about tampering of results on the way to canvassing will be minimized, Guia pointed out.

He also said that even with biometrics, grassroots volunteers are needed to prevent substitution of voters.

"Kailangan sigurado tayo na ang binilang na balota ay galling sa tamang botante," he stressed. "Maganda pa din na binabantayan na ang bumoboto ay true voters. So candidates should have the network to protect your vote at precinct level."

(Read the first part here.)