MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, February 24, said it is considering the issuance of voting receipts to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who will participate in the upcoming national elections.
In an interview with reporters, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body recently discussed the possibility of printing receipts from vote-counting machines (VCMs).
Bautista said it is easier to issue receipts to OFW voters because “they’re given 30 days to vote” overseas. He added that they’re not as many as the 54.36 million voters in local precincts.
Comelec records show 1.37 million overseas Filipinos registered to vote in the upcoming elections. They have from April 9 to May 9 to cast their votes.
The 54.36 million voters in local precincts, excluding local absentee voters, only have 7 am to 5 pm on May 9.
“So merong panahon e,” Bautista said of the overseas voters. (So they have time.)
Comelec chairman: ‘Why not,’ but…
This comes as senatorial candidate Richard Gordon, as well as election watchdogs, pressured the Comelec to issue voting receipts from VCMs across the Philippines.
Gordon filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday, February 22, to compel the Comelec to issue voting receipts, also known as the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
Gordon said this is a minimum requirement to allow voters “to confirm and verify whether or not the voting machine had indeed read his or her ballot correctly.”
The Comelec, for its part, voted 7-0 against the VVPAT because politicians can use the receipts in vote-buying, and issuing receipts can add 5 to 7 hours to the voting time in election precincts.
Bautista said in Filipino, “If we had more time in our elections, why not print out receipts, right?”
“The disadvantages outweigh the advantages,” he added.
’Why synchronize elections?’
Bautista also explained that voting conditions in the Philippines “are not conducive to printing the receipts.”
He said the Comelec can reconsider printing the receipts if voting conditions change in the next few years.
“For example, bakit nga ba synchronized 'yung elections? Bakit 'yung national at local are being conducted simultaneously? Pangalawa, bakit ba isang araw lang? Sa ibang bansa naman, hindi lang isang araw ang botohan e,” Bautista said.
(For example, why are the elections synchronized? Why are the national and local elections being conducted simultaneously? Second, why is it just held for one day? In other countries, elections are held for more than one day.)
Despite these constraints, Bautista said transparency and accuracy “remain very important.”
To ensure credible elections, he said an alternative, for now, is to possibly allow the “on-screen verification” of votes.
Through this feature, VCMs will display a person’s votes on the screen. This will allow voters to verify if the VCMs read their votes correctly.
Bautista said the Comelec now has a “more positive inclination” toward on-screen verification. He said the poll body is doing final tests before deciding to adopt this feature.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.