No 'lost' biometrics data – Comelec
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections has clarified the report that the biometrics data of some registrants for the 2016 national and local elections had been "lost."
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that some biometrics data experienced "data degradation" but he said that no data was lost or erased. He later added that only less than 2,000 voter records are affected.
Interaksyon reported on Thursday that the biometrics data of early registrants had been "erased," with Comelec urging affected voters to repeat the capturing of biometrics, or a registered voter's photograph, digital signature, and fingerprints.
In an interview on Friday, June 26, Jimenez clarified: "There have been some cases where we have issues with the signatures. But sometimes, it affects the face [in photos]; it's too dark, for instance; the fingerprints, not too clear, and they need to be recaptured."
"For instance, you take your biometrics. When you check it before you close the process with the person [taking your biometrics], everything looks fine. But when you come out of printing, in some cases, apparently the tracing of the fingerprint is too faint, or images are too dark, or the resolution is garbled. Again, you find that out when you process all of these data," he continued.
"So they were captured, that's fine, but when you're using it for purposes like for AFIS [Automated Fingerprint Identification System] or for printing out the forms, may mga data na nakita na nagkaroon ng konting degradation (there were data that were found to have minor degradation)," Jimenez said.
In some cases, he added, the issue was discovered after the transfer or submission of these data to the Comelec main office.
'Regular maintenance work'
In a follow-up text message on Saturday, June 27, Jimenez reported that there were 1,728 requests for recapturing of biometrics data due to "corrupted" data, broken down as follows: 108 records in Region 3, 183 in Region IV-A, 1,407 in Region 7, and 30 in Region X.
"When that happens, we inform the voter directly. We write them; in some cases, we call them. And we tell them to come back in for the recapture of data. That's part of the regular maintenance work of the [voter's] list," explained Jimenez.
The affected voters would need to have it recaptured to be able to vote in 2016.
"We have a list of people online who don't have biometrics, and that list includes people with incomplete biometrics," he added.
Jimenez also said that the issue is being addressed in the local Comelec offices as well.
"We always remind our operators at the front line. And we're constantly upgrading our software. Our IT department, for instance, they regularly go out and refresh the program of the different offices nationwide. So it's a continuous process to minimize [these issues] as much as possible," he said.
'Integrity of voter's list'
Meanwhile, lawyer Rona Caritos of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections emphasized that these voters should still be allowed to vote in 2016, because they already had their biometrics taken.
"The retaking of their biometrics data is for the integrity of the voter's list, i.e. pictures are clear for easier identification," Caritos said in a text message.
A total of 4.3 million voters still have incomplete or no biometrics data, and are therefore at risk of having their voter records deactivated in 2016, according to the Comelec. (READ: Voters without biometrics mostly in NCR, Regions III, IV-A)
Jimenez noted that the Comelec had been collecting biometrics data since 2004, but it was not mandatory then, until the passage of Republic Act 10367 that requires biometrics in 2016 and in future elections.
This biometrics requirement was recently slammed by columnist and Far Eastern University law school dean Mel Sta Maria, calling it "repugnant and unconstitutional." The Comelec responded by saying that the Comelec's "No Bio, No Boto" campaign "enforces the law as it is right now."
Voter's registration and biometrics validation for the 2016 polls is ongoing until October 31, 2015, in all local Comelec offices, and in satellite registration booths set up by the Comelec. – Rappler.com