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#AnimatED: Comelec needs to inspire public confidence

After Andres Bautista was newly appointed chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in May 2015, he told Rappler that one of his top priorities was to give the poll body a “new image.”

In fact, the first thing he did was to ask the bearded Comelec spokesman, James Jimenez, to shave. This was what he said he told Jimenez: “We want to project clean elections. You have to look clean as well.”

We get the point.

But managing a huge and demanding logistical exercise such as the upcoming May elections – the symbol of our rambunctious democracy and the most visible sign of popular participation – requires more than image. We need to see a decisive and firm leader who is on top of the problems and offers solutions. 

Already, we’re getting the jitters as reports on vote-counting machines rejecting 1-2% of ballot papers, which translates to 1.14 million wasted ballots, and other technical glitches, have surfaced. In a tight race, every single ballot counts.

Moreover, the  Comelec has pushed back the scheduled printing of  57 million ballots 3 times.

Commissioner Christian Lim has been having “sleepless nights” but Bautista has assured the public that all these are part of the rolling-out process and solutions are at hand. Likewise, Smartmatic, the technology provider, downplayed these delays. 

We would have taken Bautista’s word but when asked by reporters who should be accountable, he “pointed upward and looked up,” implying that he was leaving it up to the heavens.

Then he said, "I don’t know. Accountability is a big word, and I think these things happen during tests…”

Bautista is not sure if Smartmatic, with whom Comelec has entered into a multi-million peso contract, is accountable. “I will have to look at the contract to see if we can find a way to hold them accountable,” he told reporters, even asking them to help him find such a provision.

Bautista may want to make light of these issues but that is not what is called for. As leader of the agency tasked to oversee the elections, he needs to inspire public confidence. Humor and levity have their proper place – but not on major trust issues.

We look to the Comelec for leadership and we join all civic-spirited citizens and groups who aspire and are working for credible elections. – Rappler.com