Solons fear manual elections system if new PCOS bid fails
MANILA, Philippines—Lawmakers on Thursday feared a repeat of massive fraud in a manual system of elections if the bidding fails for the new automated vote-counting machines for the 2016 elections.
Solons became alarmed at Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Arthur Lim’s statement during the House of Representatives electoral reforms and suffrage committee that the last resort in case the procurement for automated machines fails is a revert to manual elections, which in the country’s experience has been wracked with violence and elections rigging.
The House is questioning the Comelec bids and awards committee’s move to disqualify two bidders—Smartmatic and Indra Sistemas—in the lease for 23,000 new precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines supposedly due to unresponsive financial bids.
The failed bidding pushed the timeline of the poll body to a two-month delay, making bids for other services like transmission, warehouse, and other election paraphernalia in limbo.
“If so dictated by the agony of the moment, or an action in the extremist to save our country from internal strife or revolutionary situation, if that be—and it’s a big “if”—then the last resort may be manual,” the newest commissioner to the body told lawmakers.
Lim further said that “manual would be the only alternative to not holding an elections.”
“We cannot afford not to hold the 2016 elections,” Lim said, adding that it was his personal opinion and not of the Comelec.
Acting Comelec Chair Christian Robert Lim clarified the poll body remained set to push through with an automated system of elections as mandated to them by law.
“(If it goes back to manual), I’d rather not be part of the Comelec. I don’t want to be tainted kung may kalokohan mangyari (if something goes wrong),” he said.
“Our position is we don’t want to entertain any talks of manual elections,” the acting chair said of the old system of elections.
Lawmakers questioned the plan to go back to manual given the country’s experience of election violence and massive vote rigging under the old system.
“That’s dangerous. We’re going back to manual? Balik tayo sa dagdag bawas?” Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said, referring to the system of diverting votes cast from another candidate in a manual system of balloting.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice also said the manual system was more vulnerable to cheating unlike in the automated systems wherein the votes were electronically submitted through the PCOS.
“If we return to manual, magkakagulo. Violence would be high. We experience the dagdag bawas and large-scale cheating during the manual (system of balloting),” he said.
The 2004 elections that brought to power former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became questionable due to allegations of vote rigging—dubbed the “Hello Garci” scandal—when then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was wiretapped in a conversation with the President to rig the election results to favor Arroyo.
Election fraud charges were also slapped against then Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos when he allegedly rigged the 2007 elections results to favor Arroyo’s senatorial ticket.
“Baka bumalik tayo sa dating gawi, especially sa presidential elections na mas mahigpit ang laban (We might go back to the old ways, especially in the presidential elections where the fight is close),” Erice said.
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