Comelec keeps open mind on parallel manual count


Posted at Apr 26 2010 12:42 PM | Updated as of Apr 27 2010 05:30 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) held a dialogue with influential business groups on Monday regarding their proposal for a parallel manual count of the May 10 elections.

Ramon del Rosario, president of the Makati Business Club (MBC), said they were able to explain to Comelec commissioners their proposal, and they are satisfied they were given an audience.

The Comelec en banc assured representatives of the MBC, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) that their proposal for a parallel manual count would be studied seriously.

Del Rosario said the en banc has to decide by April 29 so that the poll body can still rush preparations for a parallel manual count.

The meeting between Comelec and MBC lasted 30 to 40 minutes. Del Rosario said Comelec chair Jose Melo listened intently to their suggestion.

"We told the Comelec magkasama tayo dito. Kalimutan na natin ung nagdaang disagreements. This is a step worth taking because the credibility of the election is at stake, and this is the solution that we see to uphold the credibility of the polls," del Rosario said.

6 out of 9 bets support it

The MBC chief also told the Comelec that 6 out of 9 presidential candidates agreed with their proposal for a parallel manual count so there is an assurance that this is non-partisan. 

Only Gilbert Teodoro, Richard Gordon, and Manuel Villar have not signed on to it, he said.

Del Rosario said they will abide by whatever decision the Comelec comes up with.

He said the MBC is also for automation, but its members believe that the parallel manual count is needed to help establish the credibility of the elections.

"We're not anti-automation, we're very pro-automation. We want it to succeed," he said.

Various proposals

Aside from the business groups, information technology experts, the Philippine Bar Association, and farmers' group Alyansa Agrikultura went to the Comelec on Monday to seek an audience with the Comelec en banc on their call to conduct a parallel manual count of the Automated Election System (AES) in order to test the credibility and acceptance of the system.

The groups said this comes in the wake of the removal of some safeguards initially in place such as the full source code review, ultra-violet scan of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, and the authenticity check with the use of the digital signatures.

Some groups want the manual count done for all precincts for the positions of president, vice-president, and any of three local positions--governor, vice-governor, or mayor--after the first 8 election returns (ER's) are printed, meaning before the electronic transmission of results.

If the discrepancy between the PCOS count and the manual count is 1% or less, they will proceed with the transmission. But if the discrepancy is more than 1%, then there should be a manual count of all positions for that particular precinct.

The Philippine Bar Association, meantime, asked for a parallel count for the positions of president, vice-president, and 3 local posts-- congressman, governor and mayor.

The parallel manual count advocates said it is only through this count that it will be determined whether the machines are functioning according to specifications. They said only another 3 hours would be needed for the parallel manual count. 

Dialogue accommodated

They formally asked Comelec through a letter regarding this matter around 2 weeks ago, while the farmers' group submitted their letter request last February.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento and Lucenito Tagle initially came out of en banc session to face the group, saying Chairman Melo instructed them to receive the position papers, and then en banc would discuss the proposals.

But the group insisted they wanted an audience with the en banc. The Comelec has regular en banc sessions every Mondays and Tuesdays.

The en banc eventually had a session with the groups after Sarmiento and Tagle explained their request to be accommodated.

Chairman Melo and Larrazabal earlier openly expressed opposition to the move, saying the random manual audit required by law is enough to test the system. They also said there's not enough time to prepare for a parallel manual count. -- report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News