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Comelec may tap Pinoy technology

The Commission on Elections  is exploring  the possibility of using a Filipino technology  for the 2016 national and local polls even as it is pressed for time on what system to adopt.

Test Run. Students of Pamantasang Lungsod ng Maynila in Intramuros  participate
in the mock election conducted by AES Watch to demonstrate the capability of a
new voting technology. DANNY PATA
Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon said that  the poll body’s advisory council  will be asked to  test a Filipino-made Transparent Election System (TAPAT) being proposed by the  Automated Election System Watch.

“It has yet to be tested by the Comelec advisory council and government technology experts,” Guanzon said, adding that Comelec chairman Andres Bautista has already announced  that he would like the   advisory council to inform  the Comelec en banc about the best election system option to choose.   

“Well we have not yet awarded any technology. I think the chair announced last meeting he would like the entire Comelec advisory council to advise us,” she said.

Bautista  said that given the time constraint, the Comelec was also looking at either   refurbishing the 81,896 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines or leasing  the 70,977 units off Optical Mark Reader.

“(The refurbishment of old PCOS machines and the lease of OMR units) are the only (remaining) options that we are looking at for 2016 (elections),” Bautista said  at the  Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel forum on Monday.         

Comelec wanted to conduct a parallel bidding for the two systems, PCOS and OMR, but it was stymied by  a series of petitions  before the Supreme Court against the two bidding.

Bautista refused to say if the Comelec has a back-up plan in case the parallel bidding was rejected by the Supreme Court.

He said the Comelec was working toward  the goal of automating the 2016 polls, stressing that it was trying to avoid  going back to manual election.

The poll chief said that the agency is unlikely to consider any new system   since it no  longer wants to “experiment” with any new technology.

But he said that  other  options  may be considered for the 2019 and the succeeding elections.

TAPAT, which is developed by Filipino IT professionals, is a voting system that uses lotto-style ballots that are being scanned by the voting machine, which provides each voter a verification receipt and conducts automated counting.

The election returns (ERs) it will produce will then be digitally-signed by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) prior to electronic transmission of the returns.

On Monday, the AES Watch and  allied organizations, CenPEG and TransparentElections.Org, conducted a mock election at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) to showcase the system’s capability.

Among the participants were Bautista, Guanzon, and Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez, as well as Manila auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and students of PLM.

While feeding his sample ballot  into  the equipment, Bautista noted that the  voter verification receipt makes the system vulnerable to vote-buying and vote-selling activities.

Bautista, however, refused to give an initial assessment on his voting experience with TAPAT, adding that he might reveal his findings after the  en banc meeting today, Tuesday.

Pabillo, on the other hand, preferred   a receipt-like document given to voters if this will boost transparency and  accuracy.

Guanzon said she will take up the matter before the commission en banc in today’s (Tuesday) regular meeting.

“We are studying all options. Tomorrow, we have an en banc meeting. I will report my experience to the en banc,” Guanzon said.

The use of “hybrid” system, called the Precinct Automated Tallying System (PATAS), was also one of the options eyed by the Comelec for 2016 but was recently scrapped after it was deemed    “raw” and “costly” by several stakeholders.

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