Noynoy Aquino Surges But Fears About Failed Elections In 2010 Fester
The week is starting with two head scratchers:
The release of the Social Weather Station’s first dipstick right after the heady events at Club Filipino that saw Mar Roxas withdraw in favour of Nonoy Aquino as Liberal Party’s presidential standard bearer.
Wow is the only adjective.
Is it true, indeed, that 1 in two voters, at least in Luzon will vote for Aquino?
Add to this the reading that an Aquino-Roxas tandem will give other tickers a clear drubbing on May 10, 2010.
I am trying to look at the survey findings more closely.
I want to understand why only the data for Luzon is being reported given how the dipstick was, according to my sources, commissioned bo less by the influential Makati Business Club.
But as veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas scooped yesterday, we are possibly looking at a Noynoy Aquino “tsunami” in 2010.
But wait, we can’t bring out the marching bands for a new era in reformist, anti-corruption politics without taking in the backdrop: that the elections are supposed to be fully automated for the very first time in Philippine history.
Are we home free given how the Supreme Court has given a decisive 11-3 to the COMELEC-Smartmatic contract?
This is where it becomes problematic for this writer.
For one, there remains more than residual fear that quite many things can go wrong with the automated balloting.
I think IT businessman and ZTE-NBN whistleblower Joey De Venecia presents a convincing warning that the polls could be “chaotic.”
His points, as contained in a news release sent to Filipino News Network and At Midfield:
It says, in part:
While he is not contesting the recent Supreme Court decision giving the go signal for the full automation of the May 2010 polls, businessman Joey de Venecia III yesterday said he foresees “a chaotic election day.”
The Commission on Elections should seriously consider applying full automation only in the National Capital Region, he said.
De Venecia reasoned that while the SC allowed the automation to proceed, the Comelec was not obligated to proceed unless the poll body was absolutely sure that nothing would go wrong on election day, according to de Venecia, an IT businessman who is a pioneer in the broadband technology and helped establish the Philippine call center industry.
With 80,000 machines to be delivered to voting precincts nationwide a mere three days before the actual voting, de Venecia said “too many things can go wrong.” His biggest concern, he said, was the need for 47,000 technicians to man the machines.
Smartmatic which won the bid to computerize the country’s election system “is not a recruitment agency,” said de Venecia. Even if the company were able to recruit the 47,000 qualified technicians – highly improbable, if not impossible — they would still need to be trained, he added.
The Comelec will store the voting machines in Bulacan when they arrive. De Venecia raised the possibility that the security of both hardware and software could be compromised while in storage.
Shipping out the machines has been contracted to the private delivery company 2Go which only covers 60 percent of the country, the son and namesake of former Speaker Jose de Venecia pointed out.
“What about the remaining 40 percent? Will this be subcontracted? To whom?” he asked.
The ZTE-NBN whistleblower said he was not convinced that there were sufficient checks and balances in place to assure that the May 2010 polls will run smoothly.
“Anything can happen,” he said, “the transmission of the returns will be through our existing telecoms system which does not operate at 100 percent efficiency.”
Bad weather, mechanical failure or power outages could affect the transmission of the results. Even a two percent failure would translate to 800,000 votes being lost. In a close contest for the presidency, vice presidency or senate races, this loss could alter the final results, de Venecia said.
Even the newly-designed ballot could be problematic, he said, since the voter would have so many names to choose from. The time spent in filling the ballot will be much longer than before, and voters would still need to acquaint themselves with the new form.
For one, there is no room for error in filling the ballot.
As an example, the voter must make his or her pick of 12 senatorial candidates. He or she may opt to vote for less than 12, but if the voter checks more than 12 names, his vote becomes null and void.
In pushing for the Comelec to apply full automation only to Metro Manila, de Venecia said most if not all the potential problems could be solved instantly. Media, poll watchers, concerned citizens and the Comelec itself which is headquartered in Manila would be able to see the problems as they occurred and react accordingly.
Under a worst-case scenario, de Venecia said the Comelec could declare a failure of elections if too many voters are unable to cast their votes or if technical glitches interrupt the count or transmittal of returns.
As I was poring over that report I clicked over to the blog of Atty. Jun Bautista who succinctly points out how
the pilot test requirement has been dispensed with. The argument is that it is the congressional intent in enacting RA 9525 to make way for full automation in 2010 despite the failure to implement a limited AES (two cities and two provinces automation) in May 2007.
The argument, however, of the petitioners is equally persuasive, if not more convincing. According to them RA 9525, particularly Sec. 2 thereof – as relied upon by respondents, has not impliedly repealed the pilot testing requirement of Sec. 5 of RA 8436, as amended, but in fact reinforces it as can be read from from the following proviso of Sec. 2: “the disbursement of the amounts herein appropriated or any part thereof shall be authorized only in strict compliance with the Constitution, the provisions of Republic Act No. 9369 and other election laws . . .” In other words, the utilization of the funds allocated by RA 9525 for poll automation shall be made strictly in accordance with RA 9369. As already discussed, Sec. 5 of RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, mandates the two cities and two provinces application first of an AES.
A rational reading of Sec. 5 of RA 8436 shows the unmistakable intention of the law to pilot test first the implementation of an AES by limiting it to at least two cities and two provinces each for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. There is no other purpose that can be gleaned from said provision but to see first how automation can be carried out with limited application, before making it nationwide in scope. And this is but proper, considering that it will be the first time that automation will be carried out in the election of national and local officials.
Since the initial requirement for full automation has not been complied with in the 2007 elections, that does not mean the same rationale is no longer applicable. Now, if the pilot test required by law was not implemented in the 2007 elections for practical reasons (due to time and funding constraints), there is no reason why, for practical reasons also, that said testing cannot be implemented first in 2010 before we embark on full automation. To be sure, the limited application of AES mandated after the effectivity of RA 9369 was not just inserted there by Congress for no reason at all. It was meant to pilot test automation first, plain and simple. To repeat, just because automation was not undertaken during the 2007 elections does not mean that the purpose behind a pilot test no longer applies.
Applying the pilot testing requirement of Sec. 5 of RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, in the 2010 elections would not violate the law anymore than its non-application during the 2007 elections violated the law. On the contrary, it will serve and implement the clear intent of the law.
I realize that this post may be somewhat heavy reading for a Monday morning, but while a Noynoy “tsunami” can spell the end to our hated brand of politics, the prospect of a failed election can frustrate such hopes for a brand new day.
And what could dangerously be the end-game picture?
I go to the final point in the De Venecia story:
If the automated elections go well in the NCR , the Comelec can then apply nationwide computerized polls in the 2013 midterm elections, or even in the barangay elections in late 2010,” de Venecia said.
The May 2010 elections will be one of the most important in the nation’s history, according to de Venecia. “The Comelec cannot afford to make a mess of it.”
Chaotic polls could be used as an excuse by the unpopular Arroyo administration to extend its term or declare martial law, he warned.
Please God no.
Quite predictably Malacanang is trying to keep a stiff upper lip about Sen. Aquino’s surge in the ratings game.
Pres. Arroyo’s political affairs lieutenant even managed to put a positive spin on the development, claiming the PaLaka standard bearer, whoever the person will be, will be able to catch up.
Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio:
I’m happy for him (Aquino). It’s something that should make the rest of the opposition nervous before it bothers the administration. After all, it’s not the administration candidates who were on top of the surveys before Noynoy suddenly emerged as presidential candidate. I have a feeling that the coming presidential elections is going to be an exciting contest among bright and idealist young leaders, with the older traditional-type politicians being sidelined or rendered irrelevant. Such scenario will be good for the country. The administration’s presidential bet will have a fresh start with enough time to catch up.
They don’t get it that the ratings surge of Aquino a reflection of just how disgusted people are about the current regime.