"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Friday, June 09, 2006

On the Automated Elections Bill

The Automated Elections Bill merely amends an existing law (Republic Act No. 8436) on automated elections. The policy to automate was already made years ago. We are merely improving the system. Our proposals are simple:

ONE, our proposed amendments will stop the wholesale cheating of dagdag-bawas by allowing for instantaneous electronic transmission of the results from the precinct to Congress. It will eliminate the people who delay the counting in order to pad or subtract the votes. We will know who our President is in less than 24 hours.

TWO, our proposed amendments will tighten up the COMELEC. Our bill proposes technology neutrality – which means that a private sector body of advisers will recommend that only the most efficient and effective technology will be used – unlike the old law, which was crafted by the COMELEC and practically sounded like a purchase order of particular equipment to favor a particular supplier.

THREE, our proposed amendments call for the testing of the system 6 months before the election, to make sure that the system works. That’s why we have a timeline. That’s why we have to stick to the timeline.

That’s why this bill was certified as urgent. We had been talking about this bill for the last ten months in 4 committee hearings, 4 technical working groups meetings, and 4 caucuses precisely called to address the concerns of other senators.

The debates have already ended. We are already in the period of amendments, and we have in fact already incorporated the proposals from other senators like Senators Enrile and Roxas. We have been in the period of amendments since April.

What really disheartens me, what really dismays me, is that after ten months of work, I have yet to hear concrete proposals from those who have reserved to make amendments. I have yet to see specific amendments from them as required by our rules.

Where are the priorities? People are preoccupied with Chacha, which is about giving more and more power to the politicians. But what I want to do through this bill is give the power back to the people.

What happened last night was a travesty for our people.

We are fighting a war on cheating in elections. In fighting a war, we have to act fast, and act decisively.

We want to end cheating in elections as soon as possible. We want to test out a system by 2007, so when we choose a president in 2010, it will be sure. It will be beyond doubt. If we don’t do this now, will we wait until 2013? Until 2016? How long will it take? If we don’t fix this now, people will always question the elections. We will never have a stable political system.

It is unfortunate that some of my colleagues did not see the urgency of fixing the problem of cheating.

I believe we are an honorable people. It is true that there will be people who will still try to cheat. No system can be perfect. But we have to try our hardest to beat the cheaters. We can do this by changing the technology. We have to show to ourselves and the world that the Filipino believes in and will fight for his right to choose his leaders.

We must remain vigilant and protect our rights. We must make the right laws and ensure they are properly enforced.

June 9, 2006.