Press Release
August 9, 2008

Loren: Vigilance still a must in ARMM's computerized polls

Senator Loren Legarda said yesterday that while the Commission on Election (Comelec) expects to proclaim within 48 hours the winners of the computerized elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the electorate must still be vigilant in ensuring against poll fraud.

"I see the computerization of our electoral process as a giant leap towards finally stamping out the long-pestering problem of electoral fraud in our country," said Legarda.

"Computerization of elections minimizes human intervention in the poll process. Nonetheless, it is no guarantee that fraud is not possible thus it should not be a reason for us to lower our guard against prospective election cheats," she stressed.

She said that to ensure clean and honest elections, "there must be a marriage between cutting edge technology and unrelenting human vigilance."

She had vigorously exposed poll fraud in the 2004 vice presidential election, from precinct-level ballot substitutions to dagdag-bawas anomalies in the transfer of results from the statements of votes (SOVs) to the certificates of canvass.

She said she would like to see how the two electronic systems to be used in the ARMM polls would work, if only to determine how best they can be adapted to the quirks of the Philippine electoral process.

In the mock election held at the ARMM to test the two systems, results were known in record time of less than an hour after the voting ended where Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan, who is best known for essaying the role of spy James Bond, "won" as ARMM governor.

The computerization of the ARMM polls utilizes two differing technologies, namely Smartmatic-Sahi's direct recording electronic system (DRE) and Avante International's optical mark reader (OMR) system.

The DRE system is fully automated from the voting, result transmission to the counting centers, and the final canvassing of results at the municipal, provincial and regional centers.

It uses touchpad technology like those in use at automated teller machines (ATMs) used by banks to serve their clients electronically.

On the other hand, the OMR requires voters to fill out a paper ballot, which is scanned by specially designed machines at pre-identified counting centers.

The Comelec has ordered its regional board of canvassers (RBOC) to proclaim within 48 hours or not later than August 13 the winners in the August 11 fully automated elections in the ARMM.

The poll body required the RBOC's to canvass expeditiously and accurately the electronically transmitted certificates of canvass submitted by the provincial boards of canvassers.

"Let us restore credibility to our electoral process with the aid of the most advanced technology but there's no better safeguard against cheating but sustained public vigilance," Legarda emphasized.

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