Bishop, Poll Watchdog Call for Probe of May 10 Polls

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

MANILA, June 12, 2010- A Catholic bishop has joined calls for the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to form an independent body to assess the just-concluded automated elections.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo along with other conveners of the Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) made the appeal in a letter sent to the House committee.

"The panel (should) be constituted with competent individuals of established probity and mandated with proper and adequate support to conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the technical, procedural, and other aspects of the automated election system used in May 2010," part of the letter read.

Aside from Bishop Pabillo, AESWatch's letter was signed by conveners Alfredo Pascual, president of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association; CenPEG vice-chair Dr. Temario Rivera; and Dr. Rachel Roxas, dean of the De La Salle University College of Computer Studies.

Pabillo chairs the National Secretariat for Social Action- Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

AES Watch expressed concern over the "many technical and procedural glitches which tend to put into question the overall validity of COMELEC's claim" that its system worked "perfectly" "and that the poll automation glitches were due mostly to human intervention resulting in procedural errors."

The broad, multi-sectoral poll watchdog said the May 10 voter turnout is way below Comelec's forecast of 85 percent, and "could be the lowest" compared with previous presidential elections.

The group added the technical and procedural problems resulted in long queues and inconveniences that discouraged many voters from voting.

"The magnitude of voter disenfranchisement could be bigger if the significant number of rejected ballots is considered," it said.

It asserted that the important question to answer is "if and how the AES enhanced the exercise of voters' rights and whether it provided fair, transparent, and credible elections."

"Prudence," the AES Watch signatories said, "dictates that the AES and its management be looked into to determine the accuracy and integrity of the election results."

Weeks before the elections, AESWatch rated Comelec preparations for the May 10 polls as being "deep into the danger zone" given the absence of minimum internal safeguards and the imperfect certification of the AES operation issued by the Comelec's Technical Evaluation Committee.

"An appraisal of the recent automated elections is also needed in aid of whatever legislative action shall be taken to review RA 9369 (amended Automated Elections Law) and other election-related laws"; and to "resolve tensions between opposing views, achieve closure on various issues and questions, pinpoint accountabilities for lapses and misdeeds, and learn lessons that can inform the use of automated systems in future elections," said AESWatch.

The poll watchdog stressed that its experts are available to support the work of the proposed panel. (CBCPNews)