Business World – Sotto suggests hybrid polls to include manual, automated systems

By Business World

SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto III on Tuesday broached the idea of a hybrid mode of elections — instead of the all-automated elections in place since 2013 — in which voting will be manual but the transmission of votes will be automated.

Speaking at Tuesday’s hearing by the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, Mr. Sotto said, addressing the committee chair, Senator Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III: “I think your committee can study the moves done by other countries now. Go back to manual. They all went back to manual.”

The hearing tackled the alleged irregularities in the 2016 general elections, a possibility also flagged by Mr. Sotto in his privileged speeches before his election in May as Senate president.

“Perhaps what we can do is look at the possibility of hybrid: the voting is manual, the transmission will be automated. It will be safer,” Mr. Sotto said.

The Senate inquiry took off from one such privileged speech by Mr. Sotto last March, on the alleged transmission of votes a day before the May 9, 2016, elections, and on the election servers said to be accessed from a foreign source.

There were also claims of other election irregularities in 2016, prompting the Senate leader to suggest the idea of hybrid elections.

Senators were left frustrated as well with the statements of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at the hearing, when officials of the poll body were asked to explain the alleged irregularities that year and repeatedly explained that the Comelec has yet to verify, for instance, the alleged early transmission of votes.

“Who sent the transmission last May 8 (2016)?” Mr. Sotto asked.

“May we be allowed to verify first? I think the most important thing here is to find out, did the transmissions send any result in the CCS (consolidated canvassing system),” Comelec Executive Directo Jose M. Tolentino replied.

Mr. Pimentel then requested the Comelec to provide a written statement answering the allegations raised by Mr. Sotto in his privileged speech.

After the hearing, Mr. Pimentel said Mr. Sotto’s idea is “worth pursuing” but could no longer apply in the upcoming 2019 midterm polls.

“Time will be our enemy regarding that, but the idea is worth pursuing….So the proposal answers the call for transparency because the voter himself will now see the counting in his precinct and (it) answers the need for speed when we now sum up the results of the precinct,” he told reporters.

He further warned the Comelec that the Senate would pursue the hybrid elections proposal if irregularities would still be reported in the 2019 midterm elections.

“Now this is a warning to Comelec and its number one contractor, Smartmatic, if there are still issues in 2019 and there are still failures or some observations which cannot be readily explained by them. Then we have no choice (but)…to abandon that. Then shift to hybrid,” Mr. Pimentel said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo

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