Melo to resign if poll automation fails

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2010 02:06 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2010 10:17 PM

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1) - The chairman of the Commission on Elections on Wednesday said he is willing to resign if plans to automate the May 10 polls fail.

In an interview, Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said he will resign if the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines fail to deliver accurate election results and if the system gets hacked.

"Personally, kung kunwaring it's the fault of the Comelec, I will get out. Pagka may mangyari. I will not shirk responsibility," he told reporters.

He even joked that he would be willing to face a "firing squad" if poll automation fails.

Melo clarified that there is no agreement among Comelec commissioners that they will all resign should poll automation fail amid reports from poll watchdog Kontra Daya that there was such an agreement. "Wala kaming pinag-usapan na ganun," he said.

"Kung successful naman ang election, sila ba'y magre-resign?" Melo asked, referring to Kontra Daya.

"Huwag naman silang magre-resign. Pa-kapehin na lang nila kami." he added.

Melo has previously expressed confidence in Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM's capability to conduct the first nationwide automated elections. Commissioner Armando Velasco, however, said the poll body is ready to conduct manual elections for 30% of the country's voters as a contingency measure. (Read: Comelec ready for 30% manual polls, says official)

Metro Manila, Cebu ballots a priority

Melo said ballots for the country's most populous regions should be printed and shipped first in preparation for worst-case scenarios.

He identified Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and other cities as those that should be given priority in ballot-printing. More than other areas, Melo said these "centers of population" should already be supplied with ballots in case something bad happens.

"You have to be ready for everything. What if the printer suddenly breaks down?" he said.

He also said other contingency measures should also be in place including the possibility of holding manual elections if there are not enough ballots.

"Just in case kulang yung balota natin doon na lang sa mga liblib na lugar, we will hold manual elections there," he said.

The Comelec chief said the poll body is preparing for any eventuality, adding that he is still confident the coming elections will be 100% automated.

Melo also announced that Smartmatic-TIM has bought one additional printer to speed up the printing of ballots. The production rate is currently at around 700,000 ballots a day.

Many Pinoys ambivalent toward Smartmatic-TIM: survey

Less than 3 months before the country's first nationwide automated elections, a big plurality of Filipinos remain ambivalent to Smartmatic-TIM, a consortium tapped by Comelec to provide precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the May polls.

A Pulse Asia survey conducted last January 22-26 showed that 41% of Filipino voters cannot say if they trust or distrust Smartmatic-TIM. On the other hand, 34% of the 1,800 respondents said they trust the consortium while 22% said they do not trust the group.

The Pulse Asia survey also showed that Comelec continues to enjoy the trust of 47% of Filipino voters, compared to 18% who distrust the agency outright and 34% who remain ambivalent.

Pulse Asia said overall trust ratings of Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM improved since October 2009 (+9 and +10 percentage points, respectively) while their overall indecision ratings decreased (-7 and -9 percentage points, respectively).

Forty-three percent of voters, meanwhile, said they trust poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting while 19% said they distrust the organization. Thirty-six percent of voters remain ambivalent about the organization.

The Pulse Asia survey used a probability sample of 1,800 adults. Pulse Asia’s nationwide survey has a ± 2% error margin at the 95% confidence level. Subnational estimates for the geographic areas covered in the survey have the following error margins at 95% confidence level: ± 6% for Metro Manila, ±4% for the rest of Luzon and ±5% for each of Visayas and Mindanao.