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Solons review poll automation law

Posted on: February 24, 2009

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 20:12:00 02/12/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Congress, Legislation, Laws

MANILA, Philippines – A review of Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law is underway as the filing of a separate bill that will include amendments is being considered at the House of Representatives in anticipation of the computerization of the 2010 elections.

Makati Representative Teodoro Locsin Jr., chairman of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, told INQUIRER.net that they would “revisit” RA 9369 to determine which provisions should be amended to conform to the poll automation plans of the Commission on Elections.

Locsin cited Section 31of RA 9369 providing for “manual counting simultaneous with the automated counting of voting results.”

This means that the chairman of the board of election officers in a precinct would ““take out from the ballot box and read the filled-up ballots publicly” in the presence of poll watchers and interested public after the voting results stored in the precinct voting machine would have been electronically transmitted to the Comelec main office in Manila, Locsin said.

Locsin said that this “manual redundancy” provision was added because “some paranoid representatives clamored for manual counting to be done alongside the automated canvassing.”

“There was a clamor for [election] automation and there was a clamor fearing for automation. So what we did is compromise and add features of both,” said Locsin.

Thus, the law mandates that the Comelec should implement simultaneous manual and automated canvassing, he added.

But Locsin said after the ARMM elections, “which I think was successful, we are a little more comfortable with automating [election procedures] procedures.”

“This redundancy might be removed to reduce the burden imposed to the Comelec,” he said.

House Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia echoed Locsin, saying that amendments will have to be introduced “so there will be no conflict between the process and the law itself.”

Garcia also cited Section 32 of RA 9369 where the board of election officers (BEIs) would prepare the election results manually. But in the automation plan released by the Comelec, the machines would print the election results and the BEIs would only sign them, he said.

He added that there was also a plan to amend the Omnibus Election Code, specifically the provision on voting hours. In the automation plan released by the Comelec, polls would close at 6 p.m., three hours after the original time for close of polls.

Garcia noted that these proposed amendments to RA 9369 and the Omnibus Election Code would be drafted in a bill specifically for the 2010 automated elections.

“We agreed that this bill will only be for [the] election for May 2010 so that we will still preserve the provisions on manual voting,” said Garcia.

Garcia said other officials who would draft the “2010 automated election bill” would be Representatives Edcel Lagman, Hermilando Mandanas and Jesus Remulla.

Garcia said other provisions to be included in the “2010 automated election bill” would be on “election contest and credibility of automated results.”

He added that they would also consider if expulsion or substitution by a party could be considered as a ground for disqualification of candidates.

Locsin said he met with the Commission on Elections Wednesday to update them on the “manual redundancy” provision in RA 9369.

“I asked the Comelec Chairman Jose Melo if they can do it [implement both manual and automated canvassing] and the he said, ‘Yes, we can.’”

He said he also requested the Comelec to review RA 9369 and submit their proposed amendments.

Locsin said the poll body would also submit a study to Locsin’s committee its capacity to “get the job done based on the original provision of manual redundancy in RA 9369.”

Locsin said his committee would report on the amendments next Tuesday.

RA 9369 was passed in Jan. 23, 2007.

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