Business Mirror : Namfrel bares activities for national, local polls in 2022

28 September 2021

By Business Mirror

THE National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) presented on Tuesday its planned activities for the 2022 national and local elections, including the recruitment of more or less 100,000 to 105,000 volunteers, that will require over P50 million based on the more than 98,000 voting precincts it aims to cover nationwide.

According to the poll watchdog, it will file this week with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) its Petition for Accreditation as Comelec Citizens’ Arm for the coming elections.

Namfrel National Council member Fernando Contreras Jr. told reporters that they hope this will be green lighted by the Comelec for them to realize their activities pipelined for next year’s elections.

These include the Automated Elections System (AES) Monitoring which, per the group, is already engaged in third party oversight by observing the Comelec’s procurement of AES goods and services, by participating as member of the Comelec Advisory Council, and attending meetings of the Comelec AES Steering Committee.

In the coming months, Namfrel seeks to observe the local source code review, ballot printing, mock elections, delivery of election materials, and other processes related to AES. On election day, Namfrel Bantay ng Bayan observers will monitor the conduct of the elections in various voting centers nationwide, focusing on the performance of the vote counting machines, transmission of election results, and other election day activities within and around the voting centers, among others.

An Open Election Data (OED) web site that will contain poll-related information will be available to the public. Namfrel said it will tie up with the Comelec for this additional platform that is secure and accessible.

With the data coming from the Comelec and other government institutions, it sees the following as benefits of the OED portal: General information for voters and other election stakeholders; voter assistance; precinct-level results validation; AES performance analysis; data research; coordination between the public and other election stakeholders, and others.

The elections overseer will monitor again the Random Manual Audit (RMA), or the manual comparison of votes from the machines and those manually counted inside the polling places included in the audit.

Namfrel said it already joins in the regular meetings of the Comelec RMA Committee. Current discussions revolve around ensuring that the process will be safe without sacrificing accuracy and transparency. Also being discussed are some possible improvements to the audit process.

The group shared that it proposed last month to the Comelec putting QR codes not only on the machine-generated elections returns (ER) but also on the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT), or the paper receipt that comes out of the vote counting machine when voters cast their votes, to make the RMA more efficient.

Once this proposal is approved, Namfrel said that it will conduct a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) for the coming elections. It envisions that for 2022 in which other election stakeholders and the general public—and not just the Namfrel observers—can participate in the count by allowing them to use a smartphone app to be created by the group to scan the QR codes on the ERs, which will then go to its servers for consolidation.

The poll observer assures that it will have a system in place to ensure that crowdsourced data are verified before they are included in the partial unofficial count. It added that it is willing to assist any other organizations who would like to conduct their own count using Namfrel’s app.

“These are the ways to be done by Namfrel to verify that the result it will receive from the public is correct before it will be included in the unofficial partial results of the tabulation. We hope that the Comelec will give in to our request to help us realize all these activities,” Contreras said in mixed of Filipino and English.

Recruitment for Namfrel’s unpaid observers will begin soon, as it aims to deploy observers throughout the country to monitor the conduct of the 2022 polls.