Press Release
April 3, 2008


Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms chair Senator Richard Gordon warned that if the coming Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections would not be automated, former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo should not expect his appointment as Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

"Melo has no right to be Comelec chairman if he would not be able to automate the ARMM polls. Republic Act No. 9369 had already done away with requirements that make it difficult to automate the elections and opened up the possibility of using different automated polling machines. If Melo does not implement poll automation, should people think that he has capitulated to the dictates of those who protect systematized electoral fraud?" he said.

Gordon explained that we can buy 2 computers for every precinct in ARMM to be used for automated polls. After election, the polling software can be removed to be re-installed for use in the succeeding elections. Meanwhile, the computers can be turned over to schools all over the ARMM.

By doing this, Gordon stressed that "we are not only giving ARMM clean elections but also allowing its children to take advantage of up-to-date teaching methods, helping them secure hope for a peaceful and prosperous future."

"Automating the ARMM elections is crucial to automating our national elections in 2010. Without it, we will face the consequences of fraud-ridden elections yet again. Kung hindi natin magagawa sa ARMM ang poll automation at hindi ito magagawa sa buong bansa sa 2010, magaganap na naman ang 'Hello Garci' at 'Hello Bedol'," said Gordon.

Gordon likewise stressed that the true interest of poll automation is to make sure that the vote of the poor equals the vote of the rich.

"Dapat ang boto ng mahirap ay maging katumbas ng botong mayaman. Tapusin na natin ang pulitikang pera-pera at pabor ang pinapagana. Yan ang dahilan kung bakit hindi tayo umaasenso."

Gordon emphasized that computerizing the ARMM elections in August is vital in rebuilding the credibility of the nation's democratic system and empowering the people to rightfully choose their leaders.

"We are fighting a war on election fraud. To fight a war, we have to act fast and act decisively, or else we will lose. Our people will lose. Automated elections should be working by now. We want to end cheating in elections. If we do not modernize our electoral system now, will we wait until 2013? How long will it take? If we don't fix this now, people will always question the elections," he explained.

Melo was quoted yesterday saying that the planned automation of the Aug. 11 elections in the ARMM might not push through because of time constraints. Melo noted that until now, there is still no bidder declared "successful" to supply the direct recording electronic (DRE) and the optical mark reader (OMR) technologies that the Comelec wants to use to modernize the ARMM polls.

The Comelec earlier held a bidding for DRE but only one supplier had qualified in the eligibility requirements, while the applications for bids for OMR were accepted by the agency only last April 1. Melo said the Comelec is set to consult the Advisory Council on Poll Automation to determine if the lone bid submitted for DRE "can be considered as satisfactory as a successful bid."

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