“What I feared last May 9 was that the elections may be persecuted or turn out to be a plantsadong eleksyon,” expressed Angelica Soriano, a newly registered voter in La Trinidad, Benguet. The term plantsadong eleksyon means that the results of the elections were already made despite the actual election day.
In order for the counting process of the elections to be faster, COMELEC (Commission on Elections) has made the counting automated through Smartmatic, the provider of the software that COMELEC uses for an automated election.
Clean elections through an automated system
Many citizens say that cheating in the elections will be made easier due to the automated vote counting and due to the advanced technologies that we have. However, COMELEC ensures a clean and transparent elections this 2016.
La Trinidad Election Officer Grace Faustino ensured that the elections is honest despite the counting being automated.
First, mass deactivation was done to those who did not have their biometrics for the credibility of the elections. Thus the “no bio, no boto” policy was implemented. It means that people of legal age, registered or unregistered voter, must have their biometrics in order to vote and also to prevent from having flying voters.
Many registered voters in the past were removed from the list but it was a policy that every voter must have their biometrics. In addition, several months were given for the biometrics process and COMELEC has done their part to widely disseminate the information regarding that policy.
Moreover, Faustino explained that political parties did a source code review of the software that the COMELEC uses wherein Information Technology (IT) experts reviewed the software and the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) seven months prior to the elections.
Furthermore, Faustino mentioned that upon inserting the ballot into the machine, a receipt is generated to review the votes. If there was a conflict on the receipt, then voters can use it as a basis to file a complaint.
There were also reported cases of dagdag bawas especially for the national level candidates. Faustino said that during the vote counting, corrections were inputted in the system of the software. However, it was only the correction of the letter ñ that was fixed. “Our claim in COMELEC was that the counting was not affected. However, the issue is still subject to investigation,” said Faustino.
Adrian Perez, a first time voter of La Trinidad Benguet, was very happy when his vote was successfully casted.
“Voting was a really big accomplishment for me. I did my part as a citizen of the country,” exclaimed Adrian.
The main challenge that the COMELEC faced before and during the elections was regarding persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens, Faustino explains.
Faustino stated that upon biometrics, it was already indicated in the form if the person is a PWD or if they need assistance during the elections.
“It is like they do not belong to the mainstream and they are often overlooked,” Faustino exclaimed.
Training and orientation to teachers were done on how to handle PWDs. Admittedly, COMELEC cannot implement programs regarding full guidance to PWDs and senior citizens during the elections. However, family members are allowed to guide them while casting their votes.
Furthermore, automated elections depend on electronic signals to transfer the results from the precincts to the different servers. In La Trinidad, the foggy weather can affect the transmission of the electronic signals. But it was a relief that most of the counts were already in before midnight of the elections day according to Faustino.
There were also a few counting machines that experienced minor technical difficulties but they were immediately fixed and there were contingency VCMs in case of emergencies.
According to Mariano Sison, a registered voter in La Trinidad, Benguet, the May 9 election day was a success because despite the long lines in the precincts, many of the residents in the municipality have gathered to participate in one of the most important and crucial day in Philippine history.//Ma. Amica G. Mañalac