Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unripe, Ripe, Rotten: The different phases of the 2010 election

UNRIPE…the pre-election perception

Less than a year before May 10, 2010 election, Comelec entered into a contract with a foreign firm Smartmatic to carry out the project for poll automation. The sealed deal officially marked an important milestone for the government’s thrust for poll automation and indicated a new era in Philippine politics. Such move did not escape critics who mulled over the high probability of a failed election which eventually created uncertainties among the public. As Comelec played an “against-all-odds” role and Smartmatic resolves its own issues with its local partner TIM, the calls for cancellation of the poll automation all the more became louder. The Arroyo administration endured public scrutiny, relentless media probe and doomsayers’ prediction of an impending crisis but palace did not deter from its plan to pursue an automated election for 2010. Comelec and its contractor faced bigger challenges as the project reached its phase by phase implementation, it also created a bigger question if the country is really ready for the poll automation. Different issues as regards the testing and distribution of PCOS, the clustering of precincts, the testing of ballots, the training of BEI, the public awareness campaign, the mock election and all doubt about this new system to be implemented became the talk of the nation which was covered in every news headlines. There were groups who engaged in hunger strike and barricaded in front of the Comelec office to push for the parallel manual counting as they question the integrity of the automated election. Two days before the election, Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM was once again in hot water when manual count did not match the PCOS-generated returns during one of the random testing. This issue heightened the groups demand for parallel manual counting while other groups and even two presidential candidates called for postponement of the election. Comelec and the contractor gave different explanation for such an occurrence, but fairly enough Smartmatic was quick to act on the matter and dispatched the memory card replacement in 76,000 precincts nationwide in less than 48 hours. Comelec responded with a resolution for no parallel manual counting and an affirmation that the May 10 election will push through as planned although most groups perceived the move for automated election as still “unripe for the picking”.

RIPE…the election outcome

The big day event came and as perceived, problem as regards the introduction of a new system was evident such as disenfranchised voters, PCOS that bogged down, lengthened waiting time as a result of precinct clustering, rejected vote due to strict ballot scan process by PCOS machines and add to that the perpetual problem of vote-buying and other desperate shocking schemes perpetrated by politicians who refused to be out of the limelight.

The eleven hours allotted time from 7AM to 6PM for casting of votes was extended by Comelec for another hour up to 7PM to address the prolonged waiting time while Smartmatic deployed service technician and reserved PCOS machines to either troubleshoot or replace non-functional ones. After passing through the rigor of this whole new poll process and almost two hours after the closing of precincts, election results started to be transmitted to the central server which gave Comelec the chance to have a televised conference to provide update to the public and release an official partial count of the election. It was a total different scenario from the previous elections wherein teachers were subjected to a hard-days’ work and a stressful and tedious nights and days of manual counting. It is also evident that people were more vigilant of the election process and actively participated in this exercise as Comelec reported almost 75% turnout of voters despite the pre-election glitches that took place.

Then days after the Philippines’ first ever automated election, it was such an uplifting experience to see a different political landscape being carved for the country. It was also a relief to see good news running through TV, radio, newspaper and internet feeds, for once in my life I feel proud of the Philippines thus I cannot help but put into account some news stories here. It is not everyday that I got to read positive reports about the country much more about the dramatic change in the country’s political arena that was tainted with blood, violence and deceit. Presidential candidates who lost in the race like Gilbert Teodoro, Manuel Villar and Dick Gordon were gentleman enough to quickly accept defeat that showed their confidence on the integrity of the automated counting, a move that etched a new picture of well-cultured personalities. The United States, European Union and foreign community conveyed their congratulatory message to the Philippine Government and to all Filipinos for the peaceful and successful execution of the automated election. There is also a noticeable drop in election-related violence, as AFP and PNP reported. The positive pronouncements brought constructive advantage for Philippine business sector as peso gained strength over foreign currencies. The shortened counting process resulted in swift proclamation of winners in the local level which could be translated into savings in energy, effort and money as unnecessary expenses were considerably cut down which could have otherwise been spent if we were still into manual counting. So far, so good! Although we were all just starting into the process of assimilation in this computerized election, the fruit of everyone’s decent labor for poll automation has been ripe after all!

Rotten…the post-election scenario

The tons of garbage from the election, win or lose the candidates has the obligation to clean up their mess, it isn’t nice to see your names and faces hanging around just anywhere. To all losers, if you can’t be the winner in the election, just become a champion for the environment. And to all winning candidates, you now have every power to make this country a greener and cleaner place otherwise you also need to be thrown out of the garbage.

Electoral protest and claims of massive cheating - life is really like that when you are at the losing end, you always have this feeling of being deceived, you have every right to voice out your concern but please not to the point of being scandalous and violent, things can be resolved in a civilized manner, take some lessons from the three gentlemen Gibo, Manny and Dick.

Senate and Congress not yet starting with their official canvassing - Wow, isn’t that ironic? We all seem to hang in the balance because the two most important positions in the land are still yet to be proclaimed. Senate and Congress will convene only when they reach a quorum, if that is the case it only defeats the purpose of an automated election. So how long shall the nation wait? Just don’t make it too long and don’t make it too slow. Don’t make this country a laughing stock please.

Fear for constitutional crisis brought on by outgoing administration’s “overnight appointment” and incoming administration's refusal to recognize them. Well, well, well…she is still the president up to June 30, what can anyone do? She promised for a smooth transition of the presidency, let us just hold on to that promise and give her a graceful exit. Obviously she is designing a road for herself, whether people will follow her on that road will all depend on them.

Threat of impeachment against President-apparent Noynoy Aquino for refusing to recognize Renato Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice - Mr. Aquino hasn’t even seated yet in Malacanang for him to be threatened with impeachment. Give the guy a President’s welcome that he deserves, he was voted President by a large population, we all need to respect the voice of the people.

The outgoing president is making her late plans come into fruition for the remaining days of her term, whether that will be left to rot or be preserved will be up to the incoming president. A reminder to the incoming administration, please don’t forget to prune the rotten system and plant a new seed that will yield first-class produce.

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