- Namfrel seeks amendments to election automation law

By Jovic Yee |

MANILA, Philippines — The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) urged lawmakers to amend the election automation law so local technology firms would be allowed to develop and provide the automated poll system.

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to rid of Smartmatic, Namfrel said there was a need to review and amend Republic Act No. 9369 as one of its provisions effectively prevents local firms from supplying the automated election system (AES).

Under Section 10 of the election automation law, Comelec may procure the AES from either local or foreign sources but this “must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.”

Amend law

The law explicitly noted that “participation in the 2007 pilot exercise shall not be conclusive of the system’s fitness.”

“This provision effectively prevents local systems developers from participating in the development and supply of an automated election system. [The law] needs to be revisited and amended to open up opportunities for local technology providers to supply locally developed election solutions that protects the secrecy of the ballot and ensures transparency of the vote count,” Namfrel said in a statement.

On Thursday, the President urged the Comelec to stop dealing with Smartmatic, “and look for a new one that is free of fraud.”

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez noted though that there should be a legal basis for the poll body to ban any supplier, including Smartmatic.

He added that while Smartmatic had “no hold” on the poll body, it must be understood that the services it provided were won through a bidding process.

Revert to manual voting

Apart from tapping the services of local technology firms, Namfrel also reiterated its call to revert to a manual vote and counting system, albeit a bit different from what the country had in the past.

Namfrel proposed that voters should again cast their votes by writing down the names of the candidates on their ballots. The votes would then be counted manually, the results of which would be inputted in a laptop.

The results would then be electronically transmitted to the servers for canvassing and consolidation.

Earlier, the church-based citizens’ arm Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting thumbed down the proposal to revert to a manual election system given the country’s experience with such in the past.

Jimenez noted as well that even as the President questioned Smartmatic’s integrity, he still favored an automated election system.

“It was clear that [the President] wasn’t turning away from the automated system, only to the supplier,” Jimenez said.