CITIZENS FOR POLL AUTOMATION
MANILA, Philippines -- A number of citizens' groups representing students, teachers, school principals, lawyers, firefighters, and seafarers gathered at Club Filipino on Tuesday and joined calls for the implementation of automated polls in the May elections.
Senator Richard Gordon and Akbayan party list Representative Etta Rosales both echoed the call to implement the law that pilot-tests automation in 12 areas this May.
Gordon said he foresees "massive cheating" in the May polls as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) prepares to implement what is not allowed by law -- Internet voting -- and not implement what is required by law -- the pilot-testing of automated polls.
He said Botong Pinoy (The Filipino Vote), a Filipino-owned company, already offered to give its software for free and that the personal computers to be used for the May polls pilot-test may be used for classrooms later.
Asked about the budget, Gordon said: "Is the Comelec saying that the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] is stupid to sign a law and not provide money for its implementation?
This is a certified bill. We have been working on this for two years. The President is a hardworking woman and has included this in her 10-point program."
Rosales, for her part, suggested that Comelec launch a massive information drive to explain the law to the voters.
Jose "JB" Baylon, a columnist for a national daily, said that, since Filipinos have been entrusting our "kayamanang pera [money wealth]" to machines, why not their "kayamanang boto [vote wealth]."
Nelson Ramirez of the United Filipino Seafarers said his organization was among the first to support poll automation when the idea was first presented by former Comelec commissioner and now Court of Appeals Justice Regalado Maambong to the Senate in 1994. "We realize that it is not a perfect law but we have to start somewhere," he said.
Representative Bernie Ang of the Third District of Manila said "automated polls will level the playing field for the marginalized candidates." He said there will be less need for poll watchers, a major expense for candidates, which in Manila could cost as much as P90 million, calculating it from 6,000 precincts, 10 watchers per precinct, paid at an average of P1,500 for the duration of the counting, canvassing, and proclamation. "I hope we can pilot-test the system in Manila," he said.
Marco Delos Reyes of the National Union of Students in the Philippines and Youth Vote said the Comelec will become known as the "Commission on Excuses" if it continues to give reasons why it cannot go on with the pilot-test.
Lawyer Federico Agcaoili of the Philippine Bar Association noted that the law, Republic Act 9369, which has been passed by Congress and signed by the President, must be implemented. "That is the nature of laws, they must be implemented," he said, noting the features of RA 9369.
Ronnie Ramos of Bagumbayan said failure to implement the law is equivalent to violating it. "And we are sure that (Comelec chairman Benjamin) Abalos will be welcomed in jail for violating the law," he said.
Manuel Alcuaz of Rotary-San Lorenzo, Makati; George Go of Association of Volunteer Fire Chiefs and Firefighters; and Florentina Santos of the Simulaing Gabay ng mga Entrepreneur sa Pilipinas (Goal to Assist Entrepreneurs in the Philippines) made similar statements.
Citizens' groups join call for poll automation
By Veronica UyINQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:47pm (Mla time) 01/30/2007