The Readers Poll

2008-08-08

The Voice of a COMELEC Employee: On ARMM Automated Elections 2008

The long awaited complete automation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections shall take place on Monday, August 11, 2008, whether lawmakers like it or not. The ARMM automated elections is the first of its kind in the country. The entire Filipino nation is awaiting the result of the holding of such elections.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will be using two machine types for the upcoming automated elections:
(1) Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) or Automated Voting Machine (AVM) shall be used in Maguindanao Province; and
(2) Optical Mark Reader (OMR) shall be utilized in the Provinces of Lanao Del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan ( where my immediate boss was designated Monitoring Officer), Basilan, SUlu and Tawi-Tawi.

The 1.61 million registered voters in the region are set to gather at 10, 805 polling precincts to exercise their right to suffrage. New set of elected officials for the regional government, vice-governor and members of the 24-seat unicameral Regional Legislative Assembly shall be chosen come Monday and shall serve to their constituents for 3 years.

The automation of the ARMM elections will serve as an acid test/ pilot-test for the National Elections in 2010.

To guarantee the success of the automated elections, a mock election or dry run was implemented by the COMELEC last July 22, 2008. Some people concluded it was a huge success while there were a handful who thought it was a big failure.

Whichever way we look at the Philippine electoral process, it has been tarnished for decades and decades. We have yet to come up with losing candidates who won’t say they haven’t been cheated in the polls. Every candidate always has their own stories to tell. And we can’t blame them. The Hello Garci scandal, COMELEC Computerization Scam and the ZTE deal wherein no less than the former COMELEC Commissioner Abalos found himself into trouble were only but a few scandals that the Commission's name was dragged into.

On the other side of the coin, I personally believe that it is a wise move for the government to have this full automation of elections. It has long been overdue. We have been lagging behind from the rest of the world and it’s taking us a helluva lot of time to declare our winning candidates. We can’t blame people to speculate that some “hocus pocus” is taking place while the counting is going on which usually lasts for two weeks in the cities and municipalities and would take more than a month before the declaration of winning candidates.

The government bears the slogan “Clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful [CHAMP] elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao [ARMM] and is doing everything to achieve it. While it’s true that technology could make the upcoming elections more efficient and reliable, the ARMM election is an isolated case. The peace and order condition in the said area is questionable. I am apprehensive that third parties would sabotage the conduct of peaceful elections. The threat of the MILF camp to make it more difficult for the government is making it all the more impossible to have a peaceful and orderly election in that particular region. Power outage is a reason for concern because automation would mean electricity-reliance.

With all the threats posed for the upcoming ARMM elections, would CHAMP still be achievable? Well, I am still optimistic that the constituents in the region will do its own little share. They must be vigilant. They should let their votes be counted for certainly, the right to suffrage doesn’t end in the polling place. It goes through the accurate counting of ballots.

Muslims and Christians alike in Mindanao are asking for our prayers. Let us all pray for clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful (CHAMP) elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.