Comelec gets ready to purge current voter’s list

January 26, 2009

01/26/2009 | 02:04 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that it would purge voters from the voter’s list who had not voted in the past two elections.

Comelec spokesperson James Arthur B. Jimenez said that there were 53,000 voters who were deactivated or taken off the voter’s list in Bacolod.

“We [will tell] these deactivated voters that they [will] need to re- register if they wish to vote in the next elections. This method is actually a part of efforts to cleanse the voter’s list,” Mr. Jimenez
said in a statement issued on Sunday.

The Comelec has been criticized for not actively pursuing the purchase of biometric data scanning machines to cleanse the voter’s list.

The Comelec said that machines that cross-match the biometric data, or fingerprints, of a voter are expensive and that they would rather focus on getting the elections automated.

Mr. Jimenez said that deactivated voters have until the end of the year to register again. Continuing registration has yielded 45,000 new registrants in Metro Manila alone.

No national numbers have yet been released by the Comelec but the poll body expects around one to two million new voters for the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, Comelec Chairman Jose Armando R. Melo said in a separate interview that of the 17 vendors with optical mark reader technology, around a third have expressed interest in bidding for the automation of the 2010 national elections.

“Many of the companies interested are South Korean, American and Indian. But we have no preference yet, not even for those companies whose technology we have used before,” said Mr. Melo.

He added that bidding can commence once the budget is approved and the terms of reference are released. Even companies that have previously won contracts with the Comelec may also bid. The Comelec has decided to use the optical mark reader technology, which scans marked ballots over the direct recording electronic system, which uses touch pads.

The Comelec has been given a supplemental budget of P11.3 billion for the automation of elections.

Automating the national elections has been planned since 1998 but several failed bids have prevented its installation.

– Emilia Narni J.

David, BusinessWorld


Comelec opts for slower, cheaper system

January 20, 2009

By Kristine L. Alave

Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 04:34am (Mla time) 01/20/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Computing & Information Technology, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—Cheap has won over fast.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will use the less expensive paper-based Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology instead of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system using the faster touch screen technology in the country’s first computerized elections in 2010.

Comelec Chair Jose Melo on Monday said they were following the recommendation of the poll body’s advisory council to use the OMR instead of the DRE.

Melo said “affordability” was the main concern as the agency had asked for only P11.9 billion from the government for the 2010 polls.

“It’s the OMR,” he said. “It has a paper trail and paper audit, so there’s proof of the vote.”

Melo noted the OMR, where voters mark specially-printed ballots that are scanned and recorded into computers, was widely used abroad.

Touch-screen systems used in the November 2008 presidential elections in the United States were fraught with problems, with complaints that votes were not recorded properly, he said.

Melo said that there were also fears the touch-screen system could be easily hacked.

The Comelec tested the two technologies in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections last August.

The DRE was found to be faster in transmitting results but the OMR was much cheaper, Melo noted.

The Comelec had initially asked for P21 billion for the automated polls, but this was rejected by the lawmakers. The amount was lowered to P11.9 billion.

Since Congress has yet to approve the Comelec’s supplemental budget, Melo has asked lawmakers to act immediately so the poll body could bid out the project.

The poll chair said they hope to have the funds by mid-February so they could go full steam ahead on preparations and test the machines.

Nine out of 10 Pinoys interested in 2010 polls: Pulse Asia

January 14, 2009 | 01/14/2009 10:56 AM

Nine out of every ten Filipinos are looking forward to the 2010 elections, according to the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey released Wednesday.

In an October 2008 Ulat ng Bayan survey, Pulse Asia found that 90 percent of Filipinos said that they are “interested in the coming electoral exercise,” with 87 percent of respondents saying that they are “likely to vote.”

On the other hand, the survey said that the remaining 10 percent of its respondents are either disinterested or undecided regarding their stand in the upcoming elections.

Pulse Asia said that small majority of Filipinos–or 59 percent–believe that the elections will push through in 2010, with 47 percent saying that there will be a lot of trouble in case elections are not held as scheduled.

Only 12 percent of Filipinos see the postponement of the 2010 elections, while 30 percent are undecided.

The nationwide survey covered 1,200 representative adults from Classes A to E. Pulse Asia said that their survey has a ± 3 percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.

Factors considered during the period when the survey was conducted include the global financial crisis, the filing of a new impeachment complaint against President Arroyo, the Supreme Court decision on the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, and the euro generals controversy.

Other issues taken into account include the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, the deportation of former agriculture secretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, and the melamine scare in China.

Most Pinoys want polls computerized

January 11, 2009

By Rainier Allan Ronda Updated January 09, 2009 12:00 AM


Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo administers the oath in this file photo to newly-appointed Comelec commissioners Leonard Leonida, Lucenito Tagle and Armando Velasco.

Joven Cagande

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino voters are almost unanimously for poll automation, which they believe is the best defense against fraud, results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.

The survey, commissioned by party-list group Akbayan, showed 92 percent of Filipino voters in favor of poll automation while eight percent sees no need for the Arroyo administration to prioritize it.

Loreta Ann “Etta” Rosales, former Akbayan party-list lawmaker and now president of think tank Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said the government should take the cue from the SWS findings.

She noted that Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo appeared unenthusiastic about poll automation.

“It is unfortunate that the Election Automation Law has long been enacted by Congress but the Filipinos have yet to see its full implementation,” Rosales said.

“I find it very sad that chair Melo is actually not in favor of it and also of cleansing the voter’s list, saying that it’s too late already,” Rosales told The STAR.

But Melo, on a separate occasion, told reporters that he was confident of favorable action from lawmakers on a proposed P8-billion supplemental budget for poll automation.

Rosales called on both the executive and the legislative departments to provide and release the funding crucial to poll automation.

“If we really want change in the electoral system, we have to modernize the voting, counting and canvassing process. This is a test of political will,” Rosales said.

She said the SWS survey showed that the desire for automated elections runs across all segments of society.

Rosales stressed that while the effort may entail a huge cost, the result would be invaluable.

“Although the full implementation of the law may entail a higher cost, this investment is all worth it in the long run,” she said.

Rosales said that the pilot testing of automated voting in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao last August had shown that it could be done effectively across the country.

“If we were able to do it in ARMM, there is no reason why we can’t do it for the rest of the country. Our people do not want anything less than full automation,” Rosales said.

Senators Richard Gordon and Edgardo Angara had earlier assured Comelec of a budget allocation for poll automation.

“We cannot be haphazard in implementing the automation law. Comelec needs adequate time and resources to ensure that the Filipino voters, including our teachers and election officials, are ready for electronic voting,” Rosales added.

Rosales said the Comelec earlier estimated the number of “polluted” voters at 2.5 million.

“This is a conservative estimate of Comelec,” she said. “GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) won by 1.1 million over FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr). That’s far less than 2.5 million. The point is you have to clean up your registered voters’ list,” she added. “That means you have to set up biometrics and make sure you will remove double registrants which can be done in an automated election.”

Youth votes

January 10, 2009


Posted under 2010 Elections

By Marjorie Gorospe

THE 2010 Philippine presidential elections are drawing near. Some aspirants have started subtle campaigning, hoping to catch people’s attention this early.

History would tell, however, that Philippine elections have been marred with fraud, casting doubt on people who are placed in power. This is one reason why some voters forego their right to suffrage.

Jaime Garchitorena of Youth Vote Philippines says one cannot blame some people for choosing not to vote.

Garchiterona says the Filipinos’ growing distrust with elections will only lead to more unwanted public servants.

“If you don’t trust the system, which you do not try to fix, then it still stays the same as distrustful as you thought it was,” Garchiturena adds.

Garchitorena says breaking this cycle of distrust is difficult. But people should not give up. He says “trying” means that people have accepted the possibility of change.

Youth Vote Philippines hopes to encourage the youth to find time to vote.

He points out that people should not complain if they chose not to vote. “Kung hindi ka boboto, huwag kang magreklamo [Don’t complain if you will not vote],” he adds.

He admits that it remains a challenge to encourage more young people to vote. However, he and his colleagues in Movement for Good Governance are not losing hope.

Nationwide year-long youth voter registration in full swin

January 8, 2009

Leilani Chavez, | 01/05/2009 3:09 PM

If a member of the student council calls you on your cell phone, informs you of a voters’ registration in the college campus and encourages you to participate, would you go?

The answer is simple for Angelica Fabian: Yes, of course.

Fabian, an 18-year-old second year advertising student, told that she felt important when she was invited to participate in the voters’ registration organized at the University of Santo Tomas in December.

The voters’ registration is part of the BidaBe the Change Botanteng Pilipino program spearheaded by the Commission on Elections to encourage first-time voters, particularly students, to register early in preparation for the 2010 national elections.

Registration Timeline

The campus registration, which started at the University of Santo Tomas last December 2, 2008, will push through until November 2009 nationwide.

COMELEC is targeting registrations in the provinces of Pangasinan, Bulacan, Cavite, Iloilo, Leyte, Lanao del Sur, and Cagayan de Oro before the closing of classes in March 2008.

According to James Jimenez, Comelec education and information department director, they are planning to conduct a drive to cleanse the voters’ list during the summer break.

Language of the youth

Tanya Hamada, core member for YVote! and Young Public Servants, told that they are planning to extensively push for voters’ education in 2009. COMELEC and YVote have previously stated that first-time voters totaled to around 10 million, considered a critical base number for those running for office.

Aside from the workshops before the registration, Hamada said that they are also planning to stage plays and put up a youth portal on the importance of youth registration.

The play, a light comedy from the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (Peta), will tackle the registration process and the implications of voting. The play will be staged in different schools in Manila on February and will hopefully be filmed live and shown to schools outside Manila.

YVote is also taking advantage of the youth access to the Internet to disseminate information. The online portal will collate each candidate’s stand on issues and the readers can give their comments on the topic. “There will be widgets on social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster that directly link to the portal,” Hamada said.

“We wanted to reach the youth in their language, and that is television and the Internet,” she added.

UST experience

The idea of personally calling up students was initiated by the Student Council. Inviting the students was not easy, said Angelo Cachero, SC President. Cachero told that the initial reaction they got from students was apathy.

“Many questioned if they need it and there’s a notion that the current system is rotten so why bother to participate,” he said.

Cachero said that they thoroughly publicized the event by putting up posters and asking faculty members to discuss it with their classes. They also went as far as to call up students and invite them. Together with Comelec, they organized a pre-orientation session a week before the registration to address students’ concerns and to explain the importance of their votes.

Prior to the pre-orientation, survey forms were released. Results, according to Cachero, showed that majority of young voters “don’t like politics.”

“We shared with them that it’s not about politics but social responsibility. Voting is technically not politics,” Cachero said.

The registration in UST is the first in a series of registration in various schools and universities in the country for the BidaBe the Change program. Registration only lasts for a day.

According to Cristina Cabral, assistant director for student affairs in UST, about 200 Thomasians, all living within the 4th district of Manila and of legal age, registered. Aside from that, disabled voters also registered.

Less than 30 minutes

Fabian fell in line a little past eleven, carrying nothing but her trusty pen. The first stop was the interviewer’s desk where she was asked to fill up the registration form.

The officials then asked for her address and looked through the map of the fourth district of Manila to determine which precinct she should go come election time. After placing her thumb mark in the form, Fabian then headed to the verification desk.

The verification desk is where the registrants’ names are checked to make sure that they never registered before. This is also where voters go to transfer voting precincts.

The next step is the oath desk where students are asked for validation and pledge to vote responsibly. After this, they are ushered to the data capturing or biometrics desk where photos for the voter’s ID, fingerprints, and signatures are taken. Afterwards, Fabian and the rest of the registrants had to return to the oath desk to be given their precinct numbers.

In less than 30 minutes—27, to be exact—Fabian registered for the elections, got her free lunch, and still attended class in the afternoon. “It was fast. I probably took the longest time only at the first desk!” Fabian said.

Changing the world with one vote

Jed Umali, a second year HRM student and another registrant, told he patiently waited in line because, “It’s my right, a way of expressing myself. I now have the chance to change the country, not just for me but for every Filipino citizen. I can help by casting my vote.”

Other students have expressed the same concern and pride. For friends Kayla Ayson and Janel Reyes, second year commerce and business administration students, registering is their way of “making a change for the betterment of our country” and “to choose the right leader.”

Umali also added that, “when I reached 18, my main concern is that I can be charged and jailed. On top of that, I can vote. I used to accompany my parents during elections and just watch them. Now, I feel elated knowing that when I come with them, I can vote as well.”

as of 01/05/2009 3:10 PM

Coalition aims 10M votes for good gov’t

December 20, 2008

By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer | 12/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines—A critical mass of 10 million voters is what a new movement aims to mobilize to bring about good governance ahead of and beyond the 2010 elections.

The Movement for Good Governance (MGG), a coalition of reform-minded organizations, business leaders and individuals, has three long-term goals—voter registration and empowerment, election reform and leadership development.

But it is focusing on the 2010 elections as a major opportunity to exercise good governance and elect new leaders, the group said in a press briefing on Friday.

The organizations at the core of the coalition are Kaya Natin, Youth Vote, Young Public Servants, Hope, Transparent, Reform Coalition and RCN Visition 2010.

Some of its key movers are Milwida Guevara, a former finance undersecretary; Guillermo Luz, a former Makati Business Club executive director; information technology expert Gus Lagman; artist and youth leader Jaime Garchitorena; retired Gen. Jose Almonte and comedian “Juana Change.”

According to Guevara, the strength of MGG is how it has put together “a group of ordinary people who want to make a difference, who have hope and who would like to put a claim that this is our country.”

Guevara, president of the Synergeia Foundation which works with local government units in improving basic education, said MGG was not endorsing any particular candidate for president but “it’s possible that via an organic process ahead of the elections, views may converge to endorse a set of leaders.”

With regard to the first of its goals, the MGG will support the registration of young and first-time voters starting this month, mobilize 10 million voters to sign up and support good governance reforms and then organize communication platforms like public debates to help Filipinos understand the issues better and choose candidates wisely.

Effective automation

With respect to election reforms, MGG seeks effective automation to achieve transparent and faster canvassing of voters.

“Let’s use technology not only to prevent cheating but to make the elections more transparent,” said Lagman, of Transparent, who proposes the uploading of electoral results to the Internet after the manual canvassing of votes in the schools.

Luz said the country must fix the electoral system so that good candidates would be encouraged to run for office.

He said an online system would allow the candidates, voters, watchers the media and even the overseas Filipinos to keep track of poll results.

“Everybody will have power of information at their fingertips and that makes 40 million of us poll watchers, far better than the half a million that Namfrel can put up,” said Luz, formerly executive director of the National Movement for Free Elections.

Lagman, who was also IT chief at Namfrel, has designed a program called “Open Election System” that can speed up the canvassing of votes.

MGG seeks to encourage and empower grassroots and overseas Filipinos to monitor election results in real time and use available technology such as mobile phones and the Internet to protect the sanctity of the votes.

The coalition also seeks to guarantee the ability of overseas Filipinos to participate in and possibly influence the 2010 elections.

Direct mandate

On leadership development, MGG seeks to identify, empower and support “progressive political leaders who are sincere and effective in promoting reforms towards good governance.”

“We want to build awareness, get people to run, get good candidates to run, get people to register and get poll watchers from all walks of life,” Luz said.

Almonte, who was national security adviser to President Fidel Ramos, said that the mandate for Charter change must come directly from the people.

To ensure that any constitutional amendments would not benefit incumbent leaders, Almonte has proposed a referendum to be held simultaneously with the 2010 elections to ask the people if they wanted the Constitution amended.

If incumbent officials or those elected in 2010 would not benefit from the changes, Filipinos would likely vote “yes” in such a referendum, he said.