Monday, March 18, 2013

Comelec: Philippine election managers in the spotlight

Filipinos successfully automated its elections on 20120.
With the Philippines in the grip of another elections fever, the spotlight is once again aimed on the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the constitutional body tasked to manage the polls in the country. While administering polls is always a challenging task anywhere in the world, it can prove especially difficult in a country like the Philippines where emotions have been known to run high every time poll season sets in. The agency also has had to deal with massive electoral fraud and prevention of election-related violence.

The commission is currently in the thick of preparing for the automated elections in May 2013. Aside from overseeing the technology component, the poll body also finds itself busy enforcing campaign rules. In past elections, candidates and political parties have been known to flout such guideline as common propaganda poster area, airtime limit in the media, campaign expenditure ceiling, and the like.  

This time however, the Comelec is taking a much more hard-line stance in enforcing the strictures and prosecuting the violators.

The poll body has also employed the help of social media to crowd-source the monitoring of poll offenses. Within days of launching the Twitter hashtag #SumbongMo (Report Poll Violations to the Comelec), users have sent in countless photos of violations. Buoyed by the public’s enthusiastic participation, the Comelec has issued stern warnings against erring candidates and political parties and has vowed to penalize repeat offenders.

The current Commission is headed by Sixto Brillantes, a seasoned election lawyer. He presides over the Commission en banc composed of six other commissioners. Under his administration, the Comelec has purchased some 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines which the poll body had initially leased from technology company Smartmatic during the 2010 elections. The machines were sold at greatly reduced prices enabling the Comelec to save the Philippine government several billions of pesos.

For most Filipino voters, the Comelec’s stewardship of the automated polls of 2010 has done much to restore their faith in free and impartial elections. The speed, accuracy and transparency with which the election results were revealed to the public has earned the approval of millions of voters.

Electoral fraud was a big headache that had plagued the Comelec for decades, abetted mainly by long-drawn out counting and canvassing. Yet almost overnight, automation has eliminated such unscrupulous activities, earning the Comelec the praises of a grateful nation.

In the 2nd automated elections in May 2013, the Comelec has a lot riding on its shoulders. It is determined not to disappoint.