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Manual poll counting? ‘We’ll return to Jurassic Park’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Manual poll counting? ‘We’ll return to Jurassic Park’
Ex-Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes Jr responds to the proposed reversion to the manual counting of votes – using blackboards, laptops, and projectors – in the upcoming elections

MANILA, Philippines – Former elections chief Sixto Brillantes Jr slammed one of his fiercest critics, former elections commissioner Gus Lagman, who proposed the manual counting of votes in polling precincts for the elections in 2016.

Babalik po talaga tayo sa Jurassic Park ‘pag bumalik tayo sa manual  (We’ll really return to Jurassic Park if we revert to manual),” Brillantes said in a congressional hearing Thursday, March 19.

Brillantes, who retired from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in February, was responding to a proposal of former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman.

During Thursday’s hearing, Lagman gave a 20-minute presentation on his suggestion since the Philippines’ first automated elections in 2010: to count votes manually at the precinct level, and to conduct automation only in canvassing.

Lagman argued that manual counting in precincts is more transparent. He pointed out, too, that massive cheating happens in canvassing anyway.

“I always cringe whenever people say manual counting will bring the Philippines back to the “dark ages. They don’t know what they’re talking about,” Lagman said.

Blackboards, laptops in polls

Under his group’s proposed Transparent and Credible Election System (TCRES), votes will be counted manually on a blackboard – the system the Philippines employed for decades until 2010. At the same time, votes will be encoded in a laptop in the voting precinct. The laptop will be connected to a projector, to allow the public to double-check the votes. 

If the Comelec adopts TCRES, what will be automated is the canvassing of votes in towns and cities.

Lagman explained that TCRES aims “to improve accuracy, eliminate cheating, and cut down the processing time” of votes.

Brillantes, an election lawyer for the past 25 years, criticized Lagman’s proposal. He said the manual counting of votes will allow election lawyers, for one, to find more loopholes and delay the process.

He said automating the counting of votes eliminated the delays caused by these pre-proclamation controversies. “Gusto ba nating bumalik lahat ‘yon? (Do we want to have all these things again?)”

Referring to Lagman, who is a computer expert, Brillantes added: “Hindi po niya naiintindihan ‘yon. Hindi naman siya nagpra-practice ng law eh (He doesn’t understand that. He doesn’t practice law).”

The Comelec is preparing for the Philippines’ third automated elections in 2016, as critics continue to question Smartmatic, the company behind the Philippines’ precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. – 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.