COMELEC signs deal for overseas online voting test runs

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2021   •   163

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) announced it has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with two internet voting providers as part of its preparations for the conduct of the live test runs of its internet voting systems.

In a statement, COMELEC said the internet voting test runs form part of the commission’s “exploratory study of internet-based technologies for possible use in internet voting.”

The test run is third phase of the implementation plan, which will involve the actual test voting activity, the poll body said.

According to Rowena Guanzon, commissioner-in-charge for overseas voting, the test runs, which come at no cost to the Commission, will begin in July.

“This exploratory test use of a mobile app for overseas voters is groundbreaking, and the results will have a significant and valuable impact on how elections may be conducted in the future,” Guanzon said in the same statement.

Test voters who previously signified interest and have given their consent will participate in a mock election using the solutions providers’ apps or platforms.

The final call for participants in the test runs will end on June 25 at 5 p.m., COMELEC said.

“We call on registered overseas voters who have active and complete voter registration record to sign up and be part of this important activity,” said Director Sonia Bea Wee-Lozada from the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV).

Vice commissioner-in-charge for overseas voting Antonio T. Kho, Jr. inked the deal for COMELEC.
Comelec executive director Bartolome Sinocruz, Jr. signed as witness to the agreement while Ryan Earl So of Indra Sistemas and Henry Tan Sim of Voatz signed as representatives of the solutions providers.

Wee-Lozada and Philip Luis Marin from the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) were also present at the ceremony.

Due to conflict in schedule, COMELEC said Smartmatic will sign the agreement on a later date.

The commission said the signing of non-disclosure agreements will be conducted prior to the actual test run.

The poll body said the first and second phases of the internet voting system have already been completed in the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, respectively.

The fourth and last phase will be the evaluation phase, which pertains to the post-election assessment activity to document all stakeholders’ observations, user experience, feedback, comments, among others.

Under Republic Act 9189 or the Overseas Voting Act, COMELEC is authorized to explore internet-based technologies for overseas voting.

1Sambayan to reveal line-up of candidates in the 2022 polls in September

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition group 1Sambayan hinted at revealing its line-up of candidates for the 2022 National Elections in September.

According to Retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, they are now in the process of completing the names to be included in their line-up of candidates.

“We are very inclusive, that’s why up to now we’re trying to form a bigger coalition,” Carpio said.

The former magistrate said 1Sambayan Coalition is strengthening its group by entering into an alliance with other organizations to match the ruling party of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The group initially invited Vice President Leni Robredo to run as president on their side.

Likewise, they asked other popular names like former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Atty. Chel Diokno, Senator Grace Poe, Congresswoman Vilma Santos-Recto, and Congressman Eddie Villanueva.

Poe, Diokno, and Recto already turned down the offer.

Yet, the 1Sambayan Coalition believes there is a chance for the opposition to stand out and defeat the administration lineup.

Carpio said among those whom they invited in the coalition was Senator Ping Lacson, who already announced his bid for the 2022 national elections, though he declined their invitation.

As a prior assessment of what to expect in next year’s polls, the group said Lacson will definitely divide the administration’s expected votes.

“Sa tingin po natin, with the solid opposition, mahahati lang po nila ang boto ng administrasyon,” noted Howard Calleja, the group’s convenor. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

De Lima formally announces bid for Senate reelection in 2022 polls

Marje Pelayo   •   July 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has formally announced her bid for reelection in the 2022 national polls.

In a press release issued by her camp, De Lima said “the political persecution she has been subjected to by the Duterte regime only strengthened her resolve to fight for her advocacies.”

De Lima said her “unjust detention” prompted her to seek reelection and work harder “to defend human rights at all cost.”

The lady senator earlier chided President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to fulfill all of his campaign promises.

This, she expressed through a letter to the Chief Executive days before Duterte’s sixth and final state of the nation address (SONA).

Among the issues she referred to include illegal drugs, corruption, the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the state of the country’s economy.

“Mahigit na apat na taon mo na akong ipinakulong para maitago ang iyong pagka-inutil, bukod pa sa paghihiganti mo sa akin. Mahigit na apat na taon na ipinagkait mo sa akin, sa aking pamilya, at sa labing-apat na milyon na bumoto sa akin. Mahigit na apat na taon na akin ngayong sisingilin sa pagtatapos ng iyong termino,” she said.

“Tatakbo akong muli. Hindi ako susuko. Tuloy ang laban. Sisingilin ka namin sa anim na taon na pambabalasubas mo sa aming bansa,” De Lima stressed.

Considered as Duterte’s staunchest critic, De Lima is known for her strong opposition to the current administration’s “murderous and failed” war on drugs which she claimed to have resulted in the death of thousands of suspected drug offenders.

She has been in detention since February 24, 2017 over drug charges.

Pimentel hopes Comelec will intervene in squabble inside PDP-Laban

Marje Pelayo   •   July 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Koko Pimentel expressed high hopes that the current conflict between two factions inside the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas Ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) will be resolved through the intervention of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

This is if the conflict within the party continues until the submission of sworn information and update statements (SIUS) listing the party’s current members and officers.

“The Comelec should have a procedure na on how to speedy resolve this. Pwede naman silang mag-trace back. Sino ba yung recognize namin na party, PDP-laban. Then step by step,” Pimentel, the party’s Executive Vice-Chairman said.

“Ngayon umatras sila. Doon sa nagke-claim na PDP Laban, umatras sila. Kung sino ngayon yung makaatras dun sa recognize ng Comelec, that should be their first choice,” Pimentel added.

For Senator Pimentel, emerging factions within the party are not new.

In November 2018, the Comelec ruled that Senator Pimentel’s faction is the duly authorized representative of the PDP-Laban against the rival faction led by lawyer Atty. Rogelio Garcia.

The camp of PDP-Laban’s Vice Chairman Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi also expects the poll body to intervene and resolve the conflict.

“Kasi at the end of the day ang aming pagtatalo, sino ba ang magreresolba? Kung magtututuloy-tuloy ang pagtatalo? Ang Comelec,” noted Atty. Melvin Matibag, PDP-Laban’s Acting Secretary-General said.

Comelec’s ruling over the two factions is critical because whoever leads the PDP-Laban signs all documents for submission to the poll body, including the party’s official list of candidates for the 2022 National Elections.

Based on Comelec’s calendar, they have until August 15 to submit their SIUS.

But the faction of Secretary Cusi is determined to resolve the conflicts and prevent any split in the party.

“We will not allow that. Aayusin namin ang PDP-Laban. After the meeting tomorrow, I promise you, we will have a stronger PDP-Laban,” Matibag said.

“There might be legal questions but we have prepared for it in any forum,” he added.

Meanwhile, according to political science expert Professor Dennis Coronacion, if President Rodrigo Duterte suddenly decides to exit the PDP-Laban and join other political parties, his popularity will not be affected.

“Same pa rin yan. Actually kung titingnan natin yung mga political parties naman talaga, they don’t matter sa Philippine politics. They only matter because kinakailangan ng candidate ng affiliation. I think it’s required by the Comelec,” Coronacion said. MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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