Comelec awaits 2016 poll tech recommendation

Michael Bueza
The Comelec Advisory Council is set to submit by August 15 a recommendation on what automated election system will be used for the 2016 polls. Comelec may have its final decision by end-August.
AES FORUM. Members of the Comelec Advisory Council pose with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III (front row, 3rd from right) and Comelec commissioners during the Automated Election Systems (AES) Forum on Sunday, July 27. Photo by Michael Bueza/ Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Various automated election systems were presented at a forum on Sunday, July 27, as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) awaits the recommendation of its advisory body on the technology that would be used in the 2016 national elections.

The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) was given an August 15 deadline to submit its recommended automated election system (AES) for the 2016 polls as well as in succeeding elections.

To demonstrate the array of available technologies, the CAC organized an Automated Election System Forum on Sunday, part of the 2014 National Science and Technology Week at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Eight companies and election experts exhibited their products and concepts during the AES Forum. They include Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, the companies behind the automation of the 2010 and 2013 elections.

The other firms at the AES Forum were Indra, Scytl, Lambton Technologies, and Unisyn Voting Solutions.

Presented at the event were technologies, such as:

  • direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines that use touch-screen technology
  • an electronic poll book for voter verification on election day
  • an online voter’s registration
  • new methods of vote counting and canvassing
  • an open-source software system
  • voting through tablets and smartphones
  • an online voting system for overseas absentee voters (OAV)

Former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman also presented his concept of a “Transparent and Credible Election System” that does away with the current precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, which, according to him, pose transparency issues during the counting and canvassing of votes.

Meanwhile, Vir Gaerlan of the VSG Voting System showed a prototype of a “fast manual” voting system using a puncher to punch holes on a ballot.

Present at the forum were Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Comelec Commissioners Luie Tito Guia, Christian Robert Lim, and Lucenito Tagle.

“I think those presented today are the best available technology worldwide. If we could avail of it, then the Philippines would be able to experience the election systems that we see in other countries. The question now is if we have the budget [to acquire any of these technologies],” Pimentel said.

Regarding the AES Forum, Pimentel said, “I am happy that the Comelec Advisory Council is active in the preparations for the 2016 elections.” He has also asked the Comelec for its timetable leading to the 2016 polls.

Comelec’s final decision by end-August

Due in part to the early initiation of the government’s budget process, the Comelec has already drafted its initial plans for the 2016 polls, with the 2013 midterm election and the current automated system with the PCOS machines as the template.

“But we would make our final decision maybe by the end of August, following the submission of Comelec Advisory Council’s recommendations,” Commissioner Guia said.

The CAC is also expected to help the Comelec in drawing up the terms of reference – the requirements for an election system that technology providers should meet – for the procurement of the AES, added Guia.

CAC Chairman Louie Casambre said that the cost of the AES technology would be a big consideration. But they would also have to take note of other factors such as user’s preference, and the maturity and security of the technology.

Asked about the use of the PCOS machines in 2016, Casambre said that it is “always a possibility” that it may be dropped, but there is also the chance that the council may recommend its use again.

“We recognize that technology keeps on changing. So in every election, we have to go back and re-examine what the available technology is,” he said. – Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.