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EX POLL CHIEF SAYS ‘Comelec must have system safeguards’

Posted on: March 10, 2009

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By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:42:00 03/10/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Technology (general), Politics, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) should install safeguards to prevent electoral fraud and cheating, former chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Christian Monsod said Tuesday.

Monsod is now head of the TransparentElections.org, an organization advocating the adoption of an open election system (OES) for 2010 elections.

OES combines manual voting and tallying of voting results in precincts and automated canvassing and transmission of consolidated results.

Speaking during a forum hosted by CMN Media and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Monsod said the OES preserved the most transparent part of canvassing votes at the precinct since it is at this level that the counting was witnessed by the public. The proposed voting machines allow people to vote by pressing a button next to a selected candidate. The machines will then count the results.

“While we believe the better system to implement is the OES, the final decision is with them, the Comelec,” said Monsod.

Under Republic Act 9369, Monsod said the Comelec “has the absolute power and mandate to implement and manage elections.”

“I am supporting poll automation. In fact, it was under my administration that the Commission started to plan on this. However, no system in the world is fool-proof and so we urge the Comelec to make sure they install the necessary safeguards to implement its automation project,” said Monsod.

Monsod also lauded the Comelec’s decision to use the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines over direct recording electronic (DRE) technology for the 2010 elections.

PCOS technology uses special ballots – marked by voters – that are fed into the machines. It is also capable of transmitting consolidated voting results from the precinct to a single destination. The DRE, on the other end, lets voters choose their candidates by pressing buttons next to a candidate’s name a photo. The machine then prints out the ballot.

Monsod said the Comelec must specify what software and operating system would run the voting machines.

He also suggested that the Comelec must own the software to avoid buying more expensive proprietary software.

Monsod said the Comelec should also consider the following: a system that would prevent pre-shading or pre-marking of ballots; a paper trail to allow recount; proper calibration of voting machines so it won’t reject ballots unintentionally marked with ink smudges.

Reacting to Monsod’s suggestions, Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the Comelec would study his concerns.

He also assured the former poll chairman that safeguards would be in place.

“The Commission welcomes and takes into account the comments and constructive criticisms of Christian Monsod. The Commission is doing its best to make sure the necessary safeguards will be implemented in the automated election system for 2010,” said Sarmiento.

Still, Monsod said he was concerned that the Comelec “might be rushing to implement full automation.”

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