Hopes dim for 2010 polls automation - Comelec official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2009 09:25 PM | Updated as of Apr 03 2009 10:44 PM

Comelec spokesman Director James Jimenez

With less than a week before Congress goes into recess, an election official said Sunday that he sees little hope for a fully automated 2010 polls.

"Nangangamba lang kami na 'pag hindi nakuha ang budget by April 1, dadapa ang plano for automation (We're worried if we fail to get the budget by April 1, the plan for automation will fail)," said Director James Jimenez, spokesman of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), in the Balitaan sa Tinapayan news forum.

Jimenez said the P11.3 supplemental budget for the 2010 election's full automation will be turned over to the COMELEC only after the amendment of Republic Act (RA) 9369, which provides for the full automation of elections nationwide.

RA 9369 amended RA 8436, which only provided for poll automation in select provinces and cities selected by the COMELEC.

Jimenez said it would impossible for both chambers of Congress to amend RA 9369 within next week.

“Ang tanong, gaano ba katagal ang paggawa ng batas? (The question is how long does it take to pass a new law?),” the election official said.

He said the COMELEC needs to get the supplemental budget April 1 to be able to prepare for the automated elections, explaining that millions of Filipino voters need to be made familiar of how to use automated counting and voting machines.

He added that the COMELEC also needs the money to start the bidding process for the automated machines by May 4.

Jimenez said the COMELEC is hoping lawmakers will agree to take out the RA 9369 amendment requirement and immediately hand over the supplemental budget for the automated elections.

Congress is set to adjourn March 7 and will resume its session by April 13.

Hybrid polls not viable

Jimenez also reiterated that some lawmakers’ proposal for hybrid elections -- half automated, half manual elections -- is not a viable option for accurate and cheat-proof elections in 2010.

“We think a hybrid election is not viable,” he said, adding that the COMELEC would have to supervise two elections in 2010 if the proposal is approved.

He explained that in a hybrid election, two systems -- manual and automated -- will be implemented on election day.

He said holding the 2010 elections in two different systems would be a “logistical nightmare” for the poll body.

Jimenez added that the COMELEC would accept fully automated or fully manual elections, but not the hybrid system.

‘Cheats want manual polls’

COMELEC Chairman Jose Melo earlier said if the automation plan fails, election fraud operators will be “very, very happy.”

“If we go manual all the way, syndicates within COMELEC will come alive” Ah I said as much! The operators in this kalokohan in the past will be very, very happy,” Melo said.

He said manual operation means another possible “Garci-type” election scam. 

The nickname Garci belongs to former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who was accused of supervising widespread cheating in the 2004 elections, which was won by President Arroyo.

The supposed election scam was revealed in wiretapped recordings of Garcillano’s supposed conversations with his cohorts. There was one entry in the recordings that sounded like Mrs. Arroyo’s voice.

The President did not directly admit that the voice was hers, but it was at that time when she made her famous “I’m sorry” televised speech.