By Christia Marie Ramos | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — A bill seeking the implementation of a hybrid election system in the country reached the Senate floor on Monday.
As chair of the Senate electoral reforms committee, Senator Imee Marcos endorsed for plenary approval Senate Bill No.1950 or the proposed Hybrid Election Act during the Senate session.
The proposed legislation, which seeks to amend the law authorizing the Commission on Elections to implement an automated system in the elections, is contained under Committee Report No. 151. The report is signed by 14 senators.
In sponsoring the bill, Marcos said elections in the country “can never be transparent” and secure under the fully automated election system (AES).
“How do we know that our votes are counted correctly by a fully automated election system? We don’t,” she said.
“Each step of the election process must be open to scrutiny. Since 2010, we have given too much importance to speed and convenience at the expense of transparency,” she added.
In her speech, Marcos deplored the vote-counting irregularities that occurred since the AES was used, including the early transmission of votes, foreign access in election servers, installation of an additional device known as a “queuing server” in the middle of the transmission process, script change in the middle of the live transmission of results, and incomplete transmissions of results.
Under the bill, a hybrid election system will be a combination of the automated election system and the manual election system and the manual election system “to ensure transparency and credibility of electoral process.”
According to Marcos, the system would involve manual tallying of votes at the precinct level to ensure that all vote-counting is held in full public view and is open to video recording and live streaming for future fact-checking.
Meanwhile, the printing of ballots will no longer be outsourced but will be confined to the National Printing Office, she said.
A bar code, which can be scanned to project a ballot’s digital image and authenticate it, will be a new feature on official ballots, added Marcos.
She also explained that under the measure, an automatic recount of votes will be conducted for a position if a discrepancy of at least 2 percent occurs between vote tallies done manually and transmitted electronically.
Marcos also acknowledged that a hybrid election system would add to the workload of teachers and election officers but stressed the value of “greater transparency.”
“The need for a random manual audit under the AES points to its lack of transparency in reading ballots. Manual vote counting will, at the very outset, ensure transparency and the security of our votes,” she said.
Marcos is a sister of former Senator Bongbong Marcos, who has a pending electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo, who beat him by a slim margin in the 2016 polls.