Indonesia

Catholic schools urged to lend IT skills to Comelec

Paterno Esmaquel II
Catholic schools urged to lend IT skills to Comelec
Bishops also warn the poll body against 'bias' toward any service provider in the Philippines' automated elections

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged Catholic schools on Wednesday, January 28, to lend their computer expertise to the Philippines’ poll body as “serious doubts” plague the automated elections in 2016.

In a statement, the CBCP also warned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against “bias” toward any service provider in the automated elections.

“Our Catholic universities and colleges with information technology (IT) departments should offer their services, their evaluation, and put forward appropriate corrections of shortcomings,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said.

“It is my hope that with openness on the part of Comelec and both the civic and moral sense of vigilant citizens, we may free the automated system elections from serious doubts that now plague it,” he added.

Villegas also requested Catholic lay leaders with IT expertise to serve as election watchdogs.

The CBCP’s statement came as critics slammed the Comelec for planning to reuse voting machines from Smartmatic, the Philippines’ service provider for the automated polls in 2010 and 2013.

Comelec told to ‘be circumspect’

Poll watchdog Automated Election System Watch, for one, vowed to prove that the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines from Smartmatic could be “easily tampered with.”

Doubts over the automated elections system, according to Villegas, prompted bishops to warn the Comelec about this. 

“We urge the Comelec to be circumspect in respect to deals and contracts for the handling of automated elections, to avoid a defensive posture and most certainly to be free of bias towards any particular service provider,” Villegas said. 

He said the CBCP issued this statement after some bishops “have expressed their serious concern over deals that Comelec appears to be poised to enter into in respect to the automation and digitization of the forthcoming elections.”

“Bishops individually and collectively have been apprised of the vulnerability of the system. In fact, there have been credible reports of failures of the system, putting serious doubt on the electoral process,” Villegas said.

“Accurate election results are not only a political concern. They are morally significant as they have to do with the expression of the people’s will and the exercise of fundamental political rights,” the bishop added. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.