Press Release
January 31, 2009

Gordon to Comelec: Check out new automation system thoroughly

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today warned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to check out thoroughly the technology that it intends to use in automating the May 2010 presidential elections.

Gordon warned the Comelec to ensure the effectiveness and suitability of the automation technology, which is different from the automated election systems used in the Aug. 2008 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections.

"Considering its (automation) importance, the Comelec should make sure that the automated election system that it intends to use in the 2010 elections is efficient and really suitable for our country because it is a different system from the ones that we have already used," he said.

"The automation of the ARMM polls was very successful with the use of the DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) and the OMR (Optical Mark Reader) technologies. Let us hope that the automation of next year's election would be as successful despite the use of this yet untried technology," he added.

Comelec officials are scheduled to appear before the Senate budget committee on Monday (Feb. 2) to defend the P11.3-billion supplemental budget that they are seeking for the planned automation of the elections, which is only a little more than a year away.

Reports said the poll body has agreed to use the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) technology that the Advisory Council recommended instead of the DRE or OMR technologies, which the Comelec used in the ARMM elections last year.

The Comelec said the PCOS is actually an improved OMR system. It is a technology wherein optical paper ballots, hand-marked by the voters, are inserted for counting into optical ballot scanners placed in every polling precinct.

Gordon, author of the Amended Automated Elections Law, noted that the present manual system belongs back in the 18th century, being archaic, open to abuse, and the long period it takes to get results encourages "dagdag-bawas" and other forms of electoral fraud.

"Automating our elections signals that we are taking concrete steps towards truly modernizing our democracy. The full automation of the 2010 elections would erase public suspicion that the Filipino people's sacrosanct votes would be stolen from them," he said.

"Poll automation sends a strong signal that wholesale cheating that often marred the country's electoral exercises would no longer be easily carried out," he added.

Gordon also pointed out that it is for the best interest of the poll body to ensure the success of the planned automation of the 2010 elections because it would help its officials redeem themselves from waning public trust and confidence on them and the electoral exercises.

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