January 19, 2010
NIPS Forum Assesses Country’s Readiness
for Poll Automation
L-R: Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan, Atty. Ronald Solis and Ramon
As the nation prepares for the May national elections, the National
Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS) held a democracy forum on 19
January 2010 at Quezon City to discuss whether the country is ready
for poll automation. With the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation
for Liberty, NIPS invited teachers and sectoral group representatives
to learn from the Commission
(COMELEC) about its automated election system and
the current status of its preparations.
Attorney Ferdinand Rafanan, director of the COMELEC’s law
department, started the discussion by saying that an automated
electoral process is not new. The Optical Mark Reader
technology was partially used in the 1998 Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) national and local elections. It was fully
implemented in the 2008 ARMM elections. This year COMELEC is preparing
to conduct the country’s first nationwide fully
automated elections: from the counting of votes to the transmission
and canvassing of results.
He then continued to explain the new voting process with the
Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) system, the canvassing and
transmission of results and both manual and digital security measures.
Atty. Rafanan also discussed the different contingency plans in
place should the automated systems malfunction. He also reassured
the participants that should all backup measures fail,
elections will still continue. The machines
are only for counting, he stressed.
With regards to COMELEC’s preparations, Atty. Rafanan said
that the delivery of the PCOS machines continues. They are also
conducting lab and field testing. He said that Systest Labs in
the US, an independent systems certification company, is also
working on certifying the source code.
Bantay Balota lawyer, Ronald Solis, questioned COMELEC’s
confidence in executing a nationwide automated election. He outlined
several administrative and technical issues it would have to address
Attorney Solis also recommended some possible solutions such
as: independent parallel review of the source code, early
release of sample ballots and educational paraphernalia
and safekeeping measures for PCOS machines.
Ramon Casiple, chairperson of the
Consortium on Electoral Reforms, also reiterated the need
for voter’s education. If the machine fails, the teachers
can count the votes manually. What he foresees though is a breakdown
of another kind. The public will not know how to accomplish
the ballot. He said that majority will only encounter
the system for the first time on
Given these grim opinions of Casiple and Solis, NIPS will organize
a follow up forum to assess again the country’s readiness
for poll automation.
Please click on their names to read their full presentations:
Click here to listen
to Atty. Rafanan's complete talk.
Click here to listen
to Atty. Solis's complete talk.