By Christia Marie Ramos | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — Four pilot areas are being eyed for the hybrid election system in the 2022 polls if the bill seeking its implementation in the country is enacted before the elections next year.
This was according to Senator Imee Marcos as the Senate tackled Senate Senate Bill No.1950 or the proposed Hybrid Election Act, which she is sponsoring as chairman of the Senate electoral reforms committee.
Marcos was asked by Senator Sonny Angara on how the bill will be implemented “given the short time before the advent of the May 2022 election.”
“Basically, we’re not very ambitious with this. But like every electoral innovation, we could start with a pilot and it is recommended that four areas instead of the 10 clustered precincts as it’s traditionally done,” Marcos said.
“We just do four areas. Two rural, two urban, possibly Luzon and Mindanao, one very populous, one less populous. Something fairly representative just to get it started,” she added.
Angara then inquired if the hybrid election system will be rolled out to the rest of the country come 2025.
“Yes, that’s a recommendation actually: That we avoid the presidential election and that we should focus on a midterm,” Marcos said in response.
“But I suspect that a small pilot should be embarked upon because it’s not that simple and I doubt if we get it right first [time],” she added.
For the funding, Angara said he got a hold of a communication from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) addressed to Marcos, which stated that the estimated cost of a full hybrid election system would amount to P32.7 billion.
But Marcos said the Comelec “got quite an Ilocano tounge-lashing” during one of the committee hearings on the bill when she was told that the said amount was the estimated cost for the roll out of the hybrid system.
“I told them that it was out of the question and that, in fact, the ‘tara’ system familiar to us with the big sheets of paper and teachers doing the counting would probably suffice,” Marcos said.
“And then some sort of screenshot will probably be electronically sent, we have to device that part…I thought it (P32.7-billion cost) was outrageous,” she added.
Marcos further noted that the majority of the cost for a hybrid election system—should the bill be signed into law—would be for COVID-19 protocols.
“I suspect that, in fact, the big cost will not be for the pilot or the expanded pilot of the hybrid. The huge cost that will be entailed for 2022 will be for the COVID protocols because, firstly, we will have to extend the hours. The recommendation of the [Department of Health] is [that] there should be only five voters inside the precinct at any one time. There should be safety protocols,” she said.
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 the electoral process.”
Marcos previously explained that 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.
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.”