Bishops want back-up plan on automated polls

by Aries Rufo, Newsbreak

Posted at Jan 24 2010 11:42 PM | Updated as of Jan 25 2010 09:04 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Even the country’s religious leaders are Doubting Thomases on the first-ever computerized elections.

In a pastoral statement entitled “A Call for Vigilance and Involvement,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines sought for a contingency plan in case the automated polls fail to avoid a potential political crisis.

The bishops acknowledged that the Commission on Elections is pulling all stops to make the automated polls a success but also pointed out that “at this late hour, there are still many questions” whether the Comelec and the electorate are ready for a modernized polls.

Thus, “we must make sure that there are prepared fall back positions that can be quickly adopted when there are some glitches in the system and in the logistics. We have to be vigilant and be involved. One example would be to help in educating voters regarding the AES and in using the equipment,” the prelates said.

The bishops held their first plenary for the year the previous week which they concluded this Sunday. It was also the first time that CBCP president Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar presided over the assembly.

The bishops also cited the “serious questions” on the reliability and integrity of the machines that would be used in the elections which they also noted “have not been satisfactorily answered.”

Concerns have been raised on the credibility of the winning consortium that bagged the contract to automate the polls. Smartmatic, the main supplier of the machines, has been involved in alleged election anomalies in the United States and Venezuela.

Critics also raised the possibility that system could be manipulated.

The Comelec is pushing ahead in automating the elections nationwide amid concerns that massive glitches could cause a nationwide failure of elections, resulting to a leadership vacuum.

It does not help that the poll body’s election preparations have been revised many times, further heightening fears that the automated polls may fail.