COMELEC lauded for Automation
Richard J. Gordon yesterday lauded the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for finally signing a P525-million automation contract with one of its bidders last Friday, saying the poll body’s move signals the first step towards truly modernizing Philippine elections.
The Comelec’s automation contract with Smartmatic, which will supply the poll body with its Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, will be utilized for the municipality of Maguindanao during the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections on Aug. 11, 2008.
"I am happy for the country and for our people with this significant progress in our democratic life. With computers in the precincts, our fellow Filipinos in the ARMM are assured that their votes will be counted and counted fast, possibly within the hour, and their right to choose their leaders protected," Gordon, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election Systems, said.
"Certainly, automation at the polls will create a level playing field in our elections, which hopefully will spread to all facets of our political and economic life," he added.
The Comelec, meanwhile, is negotiating other contracts for the automation of the elections in five other provinces in the ARMM, namely, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Only last month, the poll body came under fire for saying it has abandoned attempts to computerize the ARMM elections for lack of time. Congress even expressed willingness to approve a resolution that would allow provide the Comelec legal cover in its bidding transactions.
However, after Comelec’s supplier demonstrated before the committee other systems such as Optical Media Recording (OMR) machines which are intended for election use, Congress abandoned plans to draft a resolution that would have allowed the body to bypass the Government Procurement Act and instead urged the Comelec to automate the elections as the law mandates it to do.
"Securing this partial victory has required nothing short of a battle against those who benefited as the country remained stuck in the antiquated system of voting and canvassing. The law did not specify any technology, thus, giving the Comelec a huge leeway in searching for appropriate systems to use," Gordon said.
"There is no substitute for clean, honest, and orderly elections. The true interest of poll automation is to make sure that the vote of the poor equals the vote of the rich."
The P525-million contract for Maguindanao is part of the P867-million budget earlier released by the Department of Budget and Management for the automation of the ARMM elections.
Gordon welcomes start of election computerization
Hannah L. Torregoza
Monday, May 12, 2008