Press Release
December 2, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said it may no longer be possible to automate the May, 2007 national and local elections due to time constraints.

Pimentel, however, said that the automation scheme can be pilot-tested in one or two provinces, cities and towns in accordance with the new Automated Election Act now being finalized at the bicameral conference committee.

With less than six months before the May 14, 2007 polls, Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos admitted that the nationwide automation of the electoral process could no longer be implemented.

Pimentel observed that the Comelec spent more than one year to work out the computerization of the May 2004 elections, but the whole project ended up in a disaster.

Abalos said the Comelec is now studying the possibility of partial automation of the 2007 elections that will cover only Metro Manila except Makati City, Central Visayas and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

But Pimentel doubted whether Abalos proposal is feasible.

But if we really want to get the automation project moving, my suggestion is to have it pilot-tested. We will choose one or two provinces, cities and municipalities where automated counting machines will be used, he said.

Pimentel said the pilot-testing will enable the election authorities and computer experts to ascertain the efficiency, accuracy and reliability of the automated counting machines that the Comelec will procure.

He said it may not be advisable to pilot-test the automation project on so wide a geographical area because if it fails, a huge number of voters will find their votes put to waste which is tantamount to disenfranchisement.

Pimentel also said that Comelec should stop insisting on the use of the 1,991 automated counting machines acquired under the fraudulent MegaPacific contract since the Supreme Court has decided with finality to prohibit the use of the machines.

Meanwhile, the minority leader urged the Senate and House of Representatives to resolve the issue of whether the computerization of elections should cover both the voting of candidates and the counting of votes.

Pimentel said lawmakers should look into the possibility of limiting the automation process only to the counting of votes, instead of also applying to voting which some experts believe is susceptible to cheating.

He cited the experience of Italy where the election law limits automation only to counting of votes due to the opinion of poll experts that automated voting is more complicated and not too many of their people are computer-literate.

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