The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) assured the public that the 2016 national and local elections will push through, even if it means going back to the old manual system of voting.
“We won’t allow a no-el (no elections). Negative. As we always say, we don’t want to revert back to manual and yet… we’d prefer manual than no-el. That is unacceptable for us and, I think, also for the electorate,” COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez said.
The statement came after the Supreme Court (SC) ruled against the poll bosy’s contract with Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. to refurbish its precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
The contract, awarded without public bidding, is for the refurbishing and replacement of more than 81,000 PCOS machines to be used in 2016.
COMELEC is firm on its stand that it would rather revert to the manual polls than cancel the election altogether amid fears that the SC ruling would mean the elections will not push through.
Jimenez explained that while Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law mandates the automation of the country’s elections, some have noted jurisprudence supporting a reversion to manual polls.
Lawmakers, however, disagree; pointing out that RA 9369 explicitly prohibits the return to full manual but some have suggested a hybrid combination of manual and automated polls.
But across all sectors, there is unanimous agreement that the 2016 election should push through in accordance with the Constitution.
Sen. Francis Escudero emphasized that the law requires regular automation of elections and called for the immediate bidding out of poll machines to make the system available on time for the May 2016 election.
“No such possibility. Impossible and it will be illegal and unconstitutional,” he said, ruling out the no-el scenario.
Meanwhile, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said the poll body could explore the combination of automated and manual system of voting, counting and tabulation as an alternative to fully automated balloting.
“We should stick to the automated election option as much as possible, because that is the mandate of the law and because it is faster and less prone to cheating. But if full automation is no longer possible due to the SC ruling, we can do the voting and counting of ballots at the precinct level manually, and automate the tabulation and transmission of votes. It’s up to the Comelec to determine which part of the process could be manually done and which could be automated,” he said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares also supports the idea of mixing the manual and automated system.
“The canvassing of votes can be automated, while the precinct vote can be manual. Manual vote by precinct is the best safeguard against cheating in the automated canvassing because voters can check and contest the results being canvassed by computers,” he said.
Malacañang also expressed its stand that the 2016 polls should push through.
“The election should push through. It’s constitutionally mandated and everybody should comply with the Constitution. As to how will they do it in the light of the Supreme Court decision, we will defer to them. We will leave it with Comelec to make sure how to operationalize the 2016 elections,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
The next election will be held on May 9, 2016 wherein the next President will be elected, among other positions.
The first automated election occurred in 2010 and was used again in the 2013 midterm polls, despite skepticism by some sectors.