MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, November 16, signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with its partners – many of whom are civil society organizations – for the upcoming National Election Summit to be held in January 2023.
The summit seeks to convene the Comelec and key election stakeholders to discuss various election issues and proposed reforms.
According to Comelec Chairman George Garcia, it is the commission’s way of increasing the involvement of citizens in improving the electoral process from start to finish.
“‘Yun po ‘yung gusto po nating mangyari dito sa election summit, ay mabigyan kami ng tamang guidance. Ano ba ‘yung mga mali natin noong mga nakaraang electoral exercises? Ano ‘yung mga bagay na dapat pang ma-strengthen…para naman mas mapalakas natin sa mga susunod pang eleksiyon natin sa bansa? And at the same time, ano ‘yung mga innovations, technological or otherwise, na dapat na meron ang Comelec?” said Garcia during the MOA signing at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).
(That is what we want to happen in this election summit – for us to be given the right guidance. What were our mistakes in the previous electoral exercises? What are the things we must strengthen…so that we can strengthen future elections in our country? And at the same time, what are the innovations, technological or otherwise, that the Comelec should be implementing?)
Comelec Commissioner Nelson Celis was designated as the lead representative from the poll body for the summit.
These are some of the institutions and civil society organizations that joined the MOA signing, and have been present in pre-summit focus group discussions (FGDs):
- Legal Education Board
- Philippine Consortium Incorporated
- Philippine Association of Fintech Lawyers
- Institute of Electronics and Communications Engineers of the Philippines
- Center for People Empowerment in Governance
- One Vote Our Hope Movement
- Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition
- Halalang Marangal
- Legal Network for Truthful Elections
- Philippine Computer Society
- National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections
- Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting
- Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila
Celis said some topics already taken up in FGDs include election standards and information security. The Comelec expects to conduct more FGDs on topics like internet voting, digitization, and vote-buying, all in preparation for the creation of resolutions in the January summit.
Garcia said the commission deferred its usual planning session for the next five years until after the summit, so that it would be able to apply reforms recommended by the stakeholders.
“We will put into action everything that will be the product of this election summit,” he said.
The Comelec chairman acknowledged that the poll body’s current systems “are not perfect” and that “there were problems encountered in 2022.”
“Wala naman po talagang perpektong sistema…. Pero, at least po, may pagtanggap on the part of the Commission on Elections of these deficiencies. May pagtanggap na mayroong kahinaan ang ilang parte, at meron din naman na mapagmamalaki na i-strengthen natin,” said Garcia.
(There is really no perfect system…. But, at least, there is acceptance on the part of the Commission on Elections of these deficiencies. There is acceptance of weakness in some aspects, and there are also things we are proud of that we can further strengthen.)
PLM University President Emmanuel Leyco also offered a message of solidarity, saying that the summit was a “huge step in engaging the electorate in a substantive manner.”
“I believe that the biggest challenge of our democracy today is the meaningful participation of our people in every step of the electoral process, and [they should resist] from merely performing their role as spectators with only limited participation [of] casting their votes during the election day, and watching on TV who won,” said Leyco.
Filipinos are expected to vote next in the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections, which had been postponed to October 2023. – Rappler.com