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What’s holding PH from having a smooth automated election?

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2019

2019 midterm elections at Commonwealth Elementary School, Quezon City (Rodel Lumiares/PVI)

MANILA, Philippines – It took the Philippines 18 years before it finally applied the automated election system (AES) in 2010, the time when Benigno Aquino III was named the country’s 15th President.

The plan to fully automate the electoral process was raised in 1992 by then Commission on Election (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod during the term of then President Fidel Ramos.

Speaking to UNTV News, Monsod explained that the main purpose of automation was to expedite the election process and to make the job easier for the Commission.

“The vision is really to have the returns faster. It’s two – accuracy and speed. Those are the two objectives,” Monsod said on Thursday (May 16).

In 1996, the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was declared a success.

It was then that the computerized election system in the country was pilot-tested using the technology provided by a U.S. company American Information System, Inc.

In December 1997, Republic Act 8436 or “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Use an Automated Election System in the May 11, 1998 National or Local Elections and in Subsequent National and Local Electoral Exercises, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes” was signed.

However, it was applied only to specific areas like Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and not to the entire Philippines.

During the term of former President Joseph Estrada, poll automation did not push through.

In 2004, the administration of then president Gloria Arroyo awarded the P1.3B poll automation contract to Mega Pacific E-Solutions but the Supreme Court (SC) nullified the contract due to irregularities in the bidding process. A complaint against then Comelec Commissioner Benjamin Abalos Sr., other commissioners and executives of the Mega Pacific E-Solutions was filed in relation to the contract but the case did not prosper due to lack of probable cause.

It was in 2008 that Smartmatic-Sahi Joint Ventures entered a contract with Comelec as the provider of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Technology while the Active Business Solutions Inc. and Avante International provided the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) Technology.

The said technologies were applied in the ARMM elections that time but several glitches manifested.

In 2009, the contract for the 2010 presidential elections was awarded to Smartmatic-TIM, the same technology provided tapped in the succeeding polls in 2013, 2016, and this year 2019.

This preference to Smartmatic raised doubts and questions to the credibility of the election process.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, for one, suggests that Smartmatic must be replaced by a different technology provider.

 “Matagal na noong January pa (ay) sinasabi ko na yan. Ang problema noong nag-privilege speech ako (ay) nakapag-award na ang COMELEC. Remember, kasi napakadaming problema,” Sotto said.

(I have been reminding them, ever since January. But then when I gave my privilege speech, Comelec already awarded [the contract]. Remember, there were many problems before.)

The recently concluded 2019 midterm polls was not spared from glitches and problems as many SD cards appeared defective and more vote counting machines malfunctioned as compared to the election in 2016.

But the poll body argues that it is only Smartmatic that passes their bidding requirements aside from the company’s experiences in the previous elections.

Comelec added that this year, not all election materials were provided by a single supplier which, according to the agency, justifies why there were defective supplies.

“In 2016, bundled ang aming bidding…Ngayon iba ang supplier ng makina, iba ang supplier ng SD cards, iba rin ang supplier ng papel at marking pens so doon ang nakita naming problema hindi masyadong nagma-match,” argued Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas.

What the poll body is looking at this time is whether or not to still reuse the VCMs despite their service in the two consecutive elections. – (with details from Rey Pelayo) Marje Pelayo

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Official count gives Widodo election victory in Indonesia

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Indonesian president Joko Widodo speaking during a field visit, interview with Widodo’s supporters | Courtesy: (c) 2019 Thomson Reuters

Incumbent President Joko Widodo won last month’s Indonesian election with 55.5 percent of votes against 44.5 percent for his challenger, retired General Prabowo Subianto, the election commission’s official count announced early on Tuesday (May 21).

“The valid ballots voted for presidential candidate number one, Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno, is 68,650,239 or 44.5 percent of the total national votes,” said Commissioner Evi Novida Ginting of Indonesia’s National Election Commission.

The official result released by the General Election Commission (KPU) confirms unofficial counts by private pollsters of the April 17 election, giving Widodo a comfortable victory, though it could trigger a legal challenge and potential street protests after Prabowo claimed widespread cheating.

Widodo won with over 85 million of the total 154 million votes cast in the world’s third-largest democracy.

“The valid ballots voted for presidential candidate number one, Joko Widodo and Maruf Amin, is 85,607,362 or 55.5 percent of the total national votes,” Ginting said.

An election supervisory agency earlier on Monday (May 20) dismissed claims of systematic cheating because of a lack of evidence and independent observers and analysts have said the poll was free and fair.

The losing party can lodge a legal challenge at the constitutional court. Otherwise, the commission will officially declare the winner by May 28. (REUTERS)

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Ex-Ombudsman Morales temporarily held at HK airport

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales
FILE PHOTO: Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales

MANILA, Philippines – Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was temporarily held at Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday (May 21).

According to Deputy Consul General Germinia Aguilar-Usudan, Morales arrived at 12:20 p.m. along with her family for a vacation.

Her family was allowed entry but the Hong Kong Immigration Officials stopped her and held her at the airport.

With assistance from Philippine Consulate officials, Morales was allowed entry at around 3:00 p.m but she decided to just take a flight back to the Philippines.

Aguilar-Usudan said, however, they were not informed of the exact reason why Morales was held.

The former Ombudsman and her family will take Philippine Airlines flight PR307 to Manila.

In March, Morales along with former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, filed a complaint of crimes against humanity against Chinese President Xi Jinping at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for purportedly damaging the resources at the disputed territory in West Philippine Sea through China’s ongoing reclamation activities in the area. —Marje Pelayo (with details from Ferdie Petalio | UNTV Hong Kong)

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Comelec on proclamation of winning senators, party-list groups: ‘Not today’

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has deferred the expected proclamation of winning senators and party-list groups in the 2019 midterm elections on Tuesday.

Comelec Spokesperson Director James Jimenez said in a press briefing that they are still waiting for the certificates of canvass (COC) from Washington, D.C. in the United States.

Jimenez explained the transmission of returns from Los Angeles caused the delay in Washington.

The COC from Washington, D.C. is expected to arrive on Tuesday evening.

He said these votes represent more than 200,000 registered voters, which may still change the rankings in the senatorial race particularly for candidates in the bottom of the top 12.

“In order to make sure na wala nang movement sa rankings ng elected officials natin, we need to get that squared away,” he said in a media briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

He added that even a partial proclamation is still not being considered at this point.

“So not today. We will announce when,” he said.

Jimenez said on Monday that the proclamation of winning senators and party-list organizations may likely be held on May 21.

READ: Comelec hopes to proclaim winning Senators, party-list groups on Tuesday

The Comelec, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC), has so far canvassed 166 out of 167 COCs for the May 13 polls.

As of Tuesday, reelectionist senators Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe still topped the Comelec’s partial and official tally, followed by Bong Go, Pia Cayetano, Ronald dela Rosa, Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, Koko Pimentel, Bong Revilla, and Nancy Binay.

Placing outside the winning circle are reelectionist senators JV Ejercito, Bam Aquino, and former senator Jinggoy Estrada.

Although a date has yet to be determined, the poll body is still eyeing to proclaim winning senators and party-list groups on the same day.

“Ang worst case scenario natin, baka ma-split ang dalawa. But again, right now we are confident na mapagsasabay natin,” Jimenez said.

Once the canvassing of votes is completed, Comelec said it will send out invitations to election winners and their families, and other government officials. Senate race winners will only be allowed to bring ten visitors each due to limited space in the venue.

“There will be no interviews by the media yet, that will be done after the ceremony. We can use the press conference area or even along the sides of the venue but after the program,” said Atty. Frances Arabe, Comelec Director for Education and Information Department.

The poll body has yet to confirm whether President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the proclamation ceremony.

A dry run for the upcoming event is also being held. (with details from Aiko Miguel)

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