Manila Bulletin - Ruminating on the right electoral system

News & Interviews
22 September 2019

By Atty. Gregorio Y. Larrazabal | Manila Bulletin


Over the past few months, there have been more frequent discussions as to what mode, system, or method of elections will be used for the 2022 presidential elections. The President himself has made pronouncements as to his preference of not having Smartmatic involved in future Philippine elections. There are currently several bills pending in both houses of Congress calling for a review of Republic Act 9639, which mandates that elections in the Philippines be automated.

As it stands, there are three options being looked at for the 2022 Presidential Elections:

1. Utilize the same Automated Election System that was used in the 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 election, albeit, with improvements and enhanced safety features and mechanisms.

2. Use a “Hybrid Election System” where which the front end of the system (the voting and counting) is manual, and the consolidation is automated.

3. Purely manual elections. Where the voting, counting, canvassing, and consolidation are all done manually.

As it stands, many Filipinos do not fully understand the intricacies of the Automated Election System that has been used in the previous elections. A larger number of Filipinos do not fully understand what a hybrid election system is, much less comprehend the nuances of that new system. As for manual elections, I assume the voters know the basics of it, but since the last time we used manual elections for general elections was back in 2007, we assume that most of the millennial voters might not have the experience and knowledge of it. This includes members of the Electoral Board (previously called the Board of Election Inspectors) who, for the past four elections, have been used to running automated elections in the polling precincts.

I’ve been asked by a number of people about the three methods of elections, and also how to differentiate them. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each. I have been asked to consider doing an objective analysis and comparison, to help the various stakeholders, including the voters, be aware.

I’ve started to do that, and hopefully will be done in the near future. The discussion will not only be about the system/method itself, but how it compares to the other two.

I think this is what’s needed. A clinical discussion differentiating the three, and making as many people understand. By understanding, people will be able to make the right decision on which would be better for the Philippines.

The bottomline in all these is to have a system that is able to address the criticisms of the existing system. For many of us who’ve been able to experience the manual system before, we’ll all at least agree that the system now is a lot faster. The lingering issue now is integrity of the system. Whatever it is that will replace what we now have, it has to have the integrity both systems before didn’t have and the speed that the current one has.