COMELEC presents hybrid election concepts in Senate hearing

The Senate tackled the potential of adopting a “hybrid” election system with manual-based counting and an automated transmission of votes in a bid to safeguard the sanctity and integrity of future elections.

Government agencies presented recommendations on the possible initiation of hybrid elections during the Senate Electoral Reforms Committee hearing last March 3, 2020, which is chaired by Senator Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos.

Led by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), several concepts were brought up as to how a hybrid election can be done in the next years to come. This is in line with the proposal of Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III under Senate Bill No. 7, which seeks to initiate a hybrid election system in order to ensure clean and honest elections in May 2022.

With personal assessments from DICT Usec. Eliseo Rio (DICT) and COMELEC Commissioners Marlon S. Casquejo and Antonio T. Kho, both agencies believe that the issue of doubt in a fully automated election stems from the counting process, wherein all these votes are quickly canvassed without deliberation, as well as a lack of public knowledge regarding the process of tallying votes.

“What improvement that we can recommend, including the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC), is that right now the only concern of voters is that they don’t know how the machine tallies their votes; We will count it with less human intervention”, said Undersecretary Rio.

Both COMELEC commissioners brought up two separate points in providing more transparency in the electoral process. Casquejo emphasized the need for individual scanning of the barcodes and the reflection of the ballot on a screen so voters can verify the accuracy of the machines used. This, in his perspective, can help in the evidence for an electoral protest.

 

Commissioner Kho, on the other hand, has reiterated the need for the voter to receive not one, but four receipts, which will be put in four boxes that would be given to COMELEC, the dominant majority party, dominant minority party and the accredited citizen’s arm. Through this, the vote precinct (VP) paths can be given to the two main parties in order for them to count the votes in their own so that they can protest using the data they have in case of discrepancy.

 

With these propositions, Sen. Francis Tolentino stressed that the COMELEC should be open to amending provisions of the Omnibus Elections Code so that any new system to be initiated is in line with the law. He also added that this is crucial if the protest can be declared by the Board of Election Inspectors themselves.

“Siguro mas maliwanag sa Committee kung ilagay na rin niya [Comm. Casquejo] kung ano ang puwede pang baguhin sa Election Code sa proseso... We’re looking at a situation wherein contests will be made right there and then, calling for a decision to be made by the Board itself”, stressed the solon.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marcos urged telco companies to provide suggestions and fresh ideas that would help push forward the legislation, adding that this is important in ensuring transparency for future elections.

“We continue to urge, particularly the telco industry for this case, kung meron kayong mga idea, kahit wild, kahit hindi sang-ayon ang boss niyo, pakipasa lang kasi we are threshing out all the best methods”, Marcos said.

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