Meeting the test of credibility

Published by rudy Date posted on March 22, 2009

TO FOREIGNERS, it must strike as amazing that it is only now – in the closing years of the first decade of the 21st century – that we Filipinos are venturing into automating or computerizing our election system. What is even more amazing is that we are the oldest democracy in Asia!

While other countries began to automate their elections as early as the 1970s, we have persisted in the manual system of voting and canvassing votes. For reasons that I never understood, we deferred, we toyed, we blocked every proposal for the automation of our election system.


We have preferred the kilometric ballot and the month-long count of election results to the speedy balloting and canvassing of votes enabled by modern technology.

Now, at long last, the system is about to change.

We are not just talking here about an automated election law – we did that two years ago. We are finally talking about implementing the law in nationwide elections in 2010.

We’ve appropriated the money – P11.3 billion to be exact. And the ball is now in the hands of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for a full-court press all the way to the balloting in May next year.

Why is this so important to us Filipinos? The answer is simple.

Truly credible

For the very first time in our history, we have a chance to hold elections that are truly credible, speedy and free from fraud. I have always believed that the first step to reinventing government was to ensure the sanctity of the ballot. This step makes that possible.

In writing the automated election law, we have taken care to mandate the following features of the new election system:

• Voter-verified paper audit trail – so that voters can see that their votes as cast are recorded accurately.
• Secured against unauthorized access.
• Accuracy in recording and reading the votes, tabulating, consolidating, canvassing, and electronically transmitting and storing the results.
• Accessible to illiterates and disabled voters.
• Provision for a continuity plan in the event of a systems breakdown.


The key benefits that will result from these features are plain:

• Faster election results. What used to take two months will now take two days.
• “Dagdag-bawas” (vote padding and shaving) and wholesale cheating will be stopped.
• Technology-neutral system. We won’t be locked into any technology at present, but rather would remain open to more modern technologies as they are being developed and tested in the future.
• Only systems with demonstrated capability will be used.
• It provides for automatic random manual audit.

For all these safety measures, there are nonetheless critics of the automated election system we are about to implement. Some are just plain distrustful about entrusting our balloting to machines.

Others are critical because their own technical and business proposal was not adopted. And then there are those who clearly see the advantages of keeping the old system in place.

The fact is there is no perfect, foolproof automated or electronic election system in the world today. Even the United States still must live with less than perfect technology at present.


What we guarantee is that in making this historic shift in election management, we take care to adopt the most appropriate and secure technology available. And it will be infinitely better than the manual system that we have been living with for generations.

Once implemented, the automated election system will be a game-changer in Philippine politics.

It will change the way we vote. It will change the way we count votes. It will change the way elections are decided.

It will also change the way politicians plan to cheat in the balloting.

Paradigm shift

One act of reform, of course, will not transform our electoral system and our Comelec into a haven of suffrage. The important thing, however, is that the reform process will now start. In years to come, we will keep on improving and upgrading the system.

With this paradigm shift in election management, public trust in our electoral processes can be nurtured again. And our credibility as a democratic society will be enhanced.

Those of us who championed the election automation law in Congress believed that what would matter in the May 2010 elections would not so much be as to who would win in the balloting, but that we would be able to hold free, credible and speedy elections. If we meet the test we all win.


To place things in perspective, we should have no illusions that automated elections would have an automatic transformational effect on our politics.

When we hear one candidate say that you should have a billion pesos to spend before you run for president, we know that there is something wrong with our politics.

When we see opinion surveys being manipulated this early to condition people’s minds and their preferences, we know that democracy is being perverted.

When little attention is being paid to service records and qualifications for high office, we are reducing our electoral politics to the common denominator of money.

(Senator Richard Gordon, an independent, is the chief author of Republic Act No. 9369 or the Amended Automated Election System Law. He is also the chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws.) –Sen. Richard J. Gordon, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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