Concerned Filipinos push for manual counting

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Apr 24 2010 04:22 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2010 12:22 AM

NEW YORK – With the Philippine presidential polls only weeks away, election fever is running high in New York City. Filipino-American artists here joined the Power by Numbers Tour, a roadshow to raise awareness on the Philippine elections through rap and hip-hop music.

Ro Pili of the Deep Foundation Crew said: “Get out there and get your voices heard.”

Valerie Francisco, vice-chairman of the Gabriela-USA Mass Campaign said, “We don’t want corruption. We want a clean and honest election. We want true and genuine change for the Philippines.”

Meantime, Loida Nicolas Lewis of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations is calling on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to approve proposals for parallel manual counting of votes.

Lewis urged the Comelec to also recognize the validity of ballot audits to ensure that the people’s votes do not go to waste.

A clean and honest election is also the goal of Philippine poll watchdog, National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel). The group has 80,000 volunteers all over the Philippines.

In her recent visit to New York, Namfrel official Evelyn Singson said many Filipinos are worried about the country’s first ever national automated polls.

Namfrel has suggested more random manual counting of votes in election hot spots.

“We will count the ballots that are in the voting machine and then compare the results of the ballot count manual with the election results.  If these tally, then we have no problem," Singson said.

She added that even if the Comelec agrees to more manual vote counts, this additional safeguard is useless if the poll body will not honor the results.

“That’s precisely why you’re doing an audit job, to be confident that the results transmitted are accurate and reflective of the will of the people,” Singson said.

Meantime, the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines said all votes for 3 key positions — president, vice-president and mayor have to be counted manually.

Singson said it will only take three hours to do so. She maintains, “If the count for president, vice-president and mayor are accurate, then the people will accept even the counts for councilors and congressmen.”

With elections coming so soon, Singson says these safeguards can still be implemented, if the Comelec allows them.

She said Namfrel would rather spend a few hours more counting the votes manually, just to make sure the May 10 elections come out with credible results. Balitang America