By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin
Senator Imee Marcos Monday pressed for the adoption of a hybrid election system, saying elections in the country could never be transparent and secure under the fully automated election system (AES) in use since 2010.
Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, sponsored on Monday the committee report endorsing a hybrid election system, as proposed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III in Senate Bill 7, or the Hybrid Election Act, filed in July last year.
The system, according to Marcos, would entail the 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 livestreaming for future fact-checking.
“How do we know that our votes are counted correctly by a fully automated election system? We don’t,” Marcos emphasized.
“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.
The senator from the Ilocos region deplored the vote counting irregularities that occurred since the AES was used, like 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.
Marcos, also chairwoman of the Senate economic affairs committee, likewise, said the timeline for filing certificates of candidacy must be moved from mid-October to the 15th of December preceding an election.
“The consequence of this change is limiting the substitution of candidates to only cases of death and disqualification, so as not to disrupt the timeline for timely printing and distribution of ballots to all precincts in the whole archipelago,” she explained.
The printing of ballots would no longer be outsourced but would be confined to the National Printing Office.
A bar code, which could be scanned to project a ballot’s digital image and authenticate it, would be a new feature on official ballots, Marcos added.
If a discrepancy of at least two percent occurs between vote tallies done manually and transmitted electronically, an automatic recount for the position under question would be in order.
Although a hybrid election system would add to the workload of teachers and election officers, Marcos stressed the need and 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.