New Comelec chair promises ‘cleaner’ polls

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MANILA, May 27, 2015 — Newly-appointed Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres D. Bautista said they will do their utmost to keep the coming elections in 2016 as clean as possible.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres D. Bautista (Photo: Melo M. Acuña)

This was his opening statement at the recent “Tapatan sa Aristocrat” where he said the new leadership is open to new ideas, suggestions, and even criticisms that would make the national elections not only clean but honest, orderly, peaceful and credible.

“Time is of the essence,” Bautista said, noting that the country’s elections on Monday, May 9, 2016 is fast-approaching.

He said he calls on well-meaning persons and groups to rally behind the Comelec, which celebrates its 75th founding anniversary this year, and to “make sure the democratic framework stays.”

Transparent polls

He said aside from party list groups, which will be up for screening, election watchdogs will also be carefully assessed.

Bautista said the time has come “not to be too legalistic” to find out which system truly works. He said there should be safeguards to assure everyone of transparent elections and counting.

He said while the law provides for automated elections, he is open to suggestions and new ideas including the proposal of the information technology experts, led by former Commissioner Gus Lagman, for a hybrid system.

“We have to find the best system and improve it further to make sure safeguards would be enough,” he further said.

Former Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President and retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz said while he was concerned how Comelec would run the coming elections, the appointment of then PCGG Chair Bautista to the Comelec, was a relief. He said he is now concerned with the kind of candidates running for elective positions and the kind of voters who would assure the country a fresh start.

PCOS errors

Meanwhile, former Election Commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman said they welcome Bautista’s appointment because the latter has maintained openness to suggestions and criticisms.

“The Comelec should now talk with the telecommunications providers because in 2010, 9% of the country’s total PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines failed to transmit,” Lagman said.

He added in 2013 some 23% of the PCOS machines did not transmit election results due to alleged technical problems to which telco providers pointed out Smartmatic’s “failure to connect.”

Atty. Manuelito “Manny” Luna, an election law practitioner and former Board of Election Inspectors chair, said there are enough laws to assure everyone of clean elections.

“There are enough election laws and what’s needed is its implementation,” Luna said. He sees no problem should the Comelec, the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) closely work together.

Bautista said they look forward to some 56 million Filipino voters next year.

According to former Civil Registrar General and NSO Administrator Carmelita N. Ericta, the Lingayen-Lucena corridor provides some 40% of the total voting population.
(Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)

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