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Comelec junks parallel manual count

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:11:00 04/29/2010

Filed Under: Computing & Information Technology, Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Inquirer Politics, Politics

MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) Saying it could ?open the floodgates? to cheating, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday threw out proposals for a parallel manual count for the presidential, vice presidential and mayoral races in the country?s first nationwide automated balloting on May 10.

Reading a resolution signed by the poll body?s commissioners, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the proposal to conduct simultaneous electronic and manual counting and canvassing ?would mean the old vulnerabilities of a manual count and canvass will once again be present and exploitable.?

Jimenez said the manual count and canvass could again result to ?dagdag-bawas? (vote padding-shaving) and ?resurrect sleeping Garcis,? in reference to a controversial call made by Arroyo to an election official (believed to be former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano) supposedly to manipulate results of the 2004 elections in her favor.

?In seeking to safeguard the credibility of the election results, the proponents of a parallel count actually may end up opening the floodgates to dagdag-bawas, thereby casting in much graver doubt the credibility of the election results that mere automation ever could,? according to the resolution he read on radio.

This, Jimenez said, made the poll body ?extremely wary? of accepting the proposal of information technology groups.

The random manual count remains the only legally-sanctioned mechanism for validating the count to be made in the PCOS machines, thus the proposal ahs no legal basis, Jimenez said.

The poll body said the scheme is not feasible with only a few days before the elections. It also cited several legal and practical "pitfalls" of the count.

The resolution cited four reasons for rejecting the proposal:

First, it said that ?the benefits of the extra legal full parallel manual count are achievable through the random manual audit mechanism already enshrined in the law;?

Second, even assuming that the full parallel manual count is to be undertaken, ?the attendant risks to the stability of the electoral system are too grave to be outweighed by its promised benefits;?

Third, conducting a hand count of the ballot ?will open up the possibility of error as well as provide an excellent opportunity for the perpetration of fraudulent acts? such as shading of additional ovals; and,

Fourth, the ?scrapping of electronic count and canvass in favor of the hand count and manual canvassing could likewise open up the possibility of the return of old modes of cheating particularly dagdag-bawas? and the resurrection of ?sleeping Garcis.?

Jimenez added, ?does the beneficiality that is to say the good that we expect to come out of it outweigh its potential for resurrecting the old vulnerabilities of the election system of human error and fraudulent machination? Second, is there still a need for a parallel manual count if there already exists a sanctioned mechanism for achieving the same results? In both cases the commission finds the answers to be in the negative,? Jimenez said.

?We must determine whether the cure will be in fact worse that the illness,? he said, adding that the proposed parallel manual count has many pitfalls. By Kristine Alave, Philippine Daily Inquirer



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