The Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Advisory Council (CAC) on Thursday promised to do its best to recommend a voting technology that would be more user-friendly and deliver more accurate results in the 2013 mid-term polls.
“We will do our best to ensure that the elections are accurate and the citizens can exercise their right to vote as easily as possible. That is one of our main objectives,” Louis Napoleon Casambre, ex-oficio chair of the CAC and head of the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology, told reporters.
Casambre made the pledge after Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento administered the oaths of office to Casambre and other new members of the CAC during simple rites at the poll body’s office in Manila.
Casambre said that the CAC would consider all voting technologies for the elections, whether they were of the direct-recording electronic, or the optical mark reader (OMR) type. The previous CAC recommended the OMR, which was the basis of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used in last year’s polls.
“At this point, everything’s open,” Casambre said.
“The 2013 elections are coming soon so we have to narrow down the list eventually. We have a lot of work to do.”
Casambre added that the council would meet next week to construct a work plan and timetable.
The PCOS machines, manufactured by Comelec’s contractor Smartmatic, did not appeal to many voters because they had to queue for up to three hours just to cast their ballots. Moreover, a random manual audit conducted later revealed that the PCOS machines did not meet up to the accuracy specifications provided in the contract.
Commissioner Augusto Lagman, who witnessed the oath-taking, said he hoped that CAC would be able to recommend the right technology by January next year. He noted that in the 2010 elections, Comelec selected the technology it deemed suitable in February 2009 and conducted the bidding by May of the same year.
Lagman, who opposed the use of the PCOS machines when he was still with the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, said he hoped the CAC would study all the latest automated voting systemsthat had emerged since last year.
Asked if the automation contract should be opened for bidding only to Filipino companies owning Philippine-made voting technology, Casambre noted that some voting technologies had patents owned by overseas firms.
“This is our election, so ideally, it should be our technology. [But] even today, the technology is not ours nor is the technology of others theirs. We will come to that question [later on],” he said.
Lagman said that the CAC’s job would be easier this time because it did not have to find a suitable technology for the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS). He said that a voting technology should match the CCS to be adopted by the Comelec.
Other CAC members are Science and Technology Undersecretary Fortunato dela Peña, EducationUndersecretary Alberto Muyot, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chair Henrietta de Villa, Luie Tito Guia of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections, Rommel Feria, George Kintanar, Rogelio Quevedo and Bettina Quimson.
Also sworn in as alternate members were Peter Antonio Banzon, Marcelo Bragado, Cynthia Topacio, Rolando Alarcon and retired Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.