Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PCOS and Hoes

Our recent visitors from Commission on Elections or COMELEC assured us that the Precinct Count Optical Scam,..err, Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used for the 2010 automated elections will be 99.9999% free of any manipulation or cheating. In the recent PCOS orientation and demonstration held at the Occidental Mindoro State College (OMSC) Main Campus Gymnasium held last December 15, 2009, Atty. Jocelyn Villanueva-Postrado, Assistant Regional Elections Director and Ms. Ma. Victoria S. Dulcero, COMELEC Public Relations Officer, stressed that the PCOS-Optical Mark Reader or OMR have been proven successful in elections in other countries.

COMELEC’s Special Bids and Awards Committee last June 3, endorsed to the en banc the awarding of the contract to Smartmatic-TIM to supply some 82,200 PCOS machines that will be used in May 2010 local and national polls. We have 80,122 precincts all over the country. We are around 100 individuals who attended the activity notably from the ranks of local aspirants from different posts in various municipalities of the province including their watchers. Representatives from the provincial chapter of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)were invited that is why I was there. This was their second destination in their information caravan and the first was in Mamburao held a day before the San Jose activity.

Ms. Perlita Villangca, OIC Provincial Election Supervisor made public that series of such information and education activities will be held soon in eleven municipalities of Occidental Mindoro.

These are what I’ve learned : Under the automated system, the voter would simply the figure beside the name of the candidate of their choice. The counting machines are in front of everyone to ensure transparency and prevent possible switching of votes. The feeding of ballots by the voters will be one by one. The only thing that the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) will do is to open and close the machine for voting after the prescribed time. Postrado likewise stressed the important role played by poll watchers from different political parties since the machine is new. Under the new system, no one, except the BEIs, would touch the ballot that would be electronically transmitted and the transmission of results could be done in just half a second.

But I have said in one of my Facebook discussion thread, there is no surefire techno fix in any political problem of the nation. The PCOS, like what commonsense dictates, is not an assurance that a true leader would emerge and solve the present socio-economic chaos of our locality. For elections is not just a question of clean and honest election so still, we must educate the people,- especially those in rural areas, to chose honest and capable persons who have the ability to serve, lead and govern. What are the assurance that this technology would not lead to wholesale cheating that would lead to possible failure of elections? Remember, those who control the system, controls the elections.

But here is another issue to consider. The PCOS technology go against basic democratic principle of “public counting”. It makes the counting, canvassing and consolidation of election results hidden from the public eye contrary to what the Constitution and RA 9369 require. Is there are no other systems available that would assure transparency? These are the issues being raised by the Center for People Empowerment and Governance or CenPEG. Let us keep our fingers crossed and our arms and legs ready that this new automated system would not lead to automated cheating come May 2010 or beyond.

Another thing. Under the new system, the proclamation of winner will be held only two to three days from day one. It is extremely impossible to file any election protest making it advantageous to the politicians who employed cheating. But how about the ones being cheated?

Everyone must be vigilant. May the IT-savvy Filipinos and specialists, and the IT expert that the COMELEC would hire from our municipality and province to supervise the specialists of Smartmatic-TIM would not put under hypnotic spell of the “hoe characters” in our local political scene…

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