Press Release: Comelec’s last chance, say farmers

“Next week may be the last chance for Comelec to take two decisive actions that will leave a legacy to be admired and respected, rather than criticized and disparaged.” This was the press statement read by Alyansa Agrikultura Chair Ernesto Ordonez.

The Alyansa Agrikultura is a farmer-fisherfolk coalition composed of 42 federations and organizations representing all the major agricultural sub-sectors. This is the largest voting sector, composed of 40% of the electorate or 16 million voters. Because of this, the Alyansa had been previously invited to three Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) hearings on Automated Election.

The Alyansa statement said that the first key action is to adopt the 100% precinct parallel manual count for the president, vice president and mayor or governor, as had been suggested by the IT professionals last April 13. If the manual count is similar to the computer count, then the automation can proceed with an average delay of only three hours.

However, if the manual count differs significantly from the computer count, there is a great probability that the computer was rigged. In these cases, there will be an additional four days to manually count all the votes and transmit them. Nevertheless, the ensuing seven-day time frame to complete the process is only 1/6 of the 42-day period under the old system. Jaime Tadeo, Rice Council of the Philippines chair, said, “This slight delay is well worth the benefit of enhanced confidence in the elections that will take place.”

The second key action is to implement what the Alyansa Agrikultura had previously proposed during the January 27 Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on automated elections: to make transparent the canvassing of the votes with a check and balance system. This means that the canvassing center must show not only the total vote count in the center (Certificate of Canvass or COC) but also the component vote subtotals (Statement of Votes or SOV).

The Automated Election System (AES) Watch had previously recommended that Comelec should install projectors in every canvassing center to show both the COCs and the SOVs to detect discrepancies between the precinct-reported SOVs and those shown at the canvassing centers. In the same way, the totals in the COCs can be verified as correct once the individual SOVs are likewise shown in the canvassing center. Last April 14, the Management Association of the Philippines advocated this move in a press conference on automated elections at the Asian Institute of Management.

Rodolfo Niones, chair of the KASAMNE onion grower association, pointed out that the estimated P500 million cost of implementing these two actions was a very small part of the P7.2 billion allocated for the AES, and less than the P700 million that was almost spent for the election folders. Ruperto Aleroza, chair of Pambansang Katipunan ng Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK) and also chair of Kilusang Mangingisdan (KM), the nation’s biggest fisherfolk coalition, concluded: “That is a small price to pay for a credible election and an admirable Comelec legacy for others to follow.”

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