Sen Dick Gordon thinks so, and he didn’t like Comelec Chairman Ben Abalos’ defeatist attitude on Strictly Politics with Pia Hontiveros last night, towards the challenge of doing six provinces during next year’s elections. Dick gave Abalos a good dose of that old Subic can-do sizboombah -I - can't - believe - what - I'm - hearing - from you - tongue-lashing. It's a refreshing approach rare among our politicians and Dick pulled it off well, never quite going beyond the speed limit.
"If the Comelec does not feel up to the task the law may assign to them and cannot do six provinces next year," Dick asked naughtily, "then HOW MANY can it do, one barrio?" He said the scope of the partial automation can still be adjusted during the bicam phase of the bill's passage (expected by around mid-November yet) and that he would be willing to do one barrio if that is all Comelec says it can do.
PROOF OF CONCEPT: I agree! Seriously, even if they answer one barrio, we should take them up on it. Because I think a properly done "automated election" on even a single voting precinct can serve to establish the system design features, such as accuracy rating, transmission security, canvassing reliability, and other key operating parameters.
It must be borne in mind that there are several aspects of an election that could, and eventually should be automated: (1) registration of voters; (2) voting; (3) counting; (4) transmission; (5) canvassing. The Comelec itself has incinerated billions of pesos on all of them, with very little to show for it, except for the groaning pile of illegally purchased OMR-based ACMs costing the government 1.9 million pesos per month in storage costs. (Since Comelec already prepaid 900 million to MPC, and have disappeared from all legal and practical accountability, Comelec may as well set up the biggest Internet Cafe and Game Room in the world-- right there on the fourth floor of the Comelec Bldg in historic Intramuros!)
Sen. Gordon emphasized on the show that the leitmotif of his concept is the transmission subsystem. His reasoning is based on the common understanding that there are retail modes and wholesale modes of cheating in a Philippine election. Some retail modes of cheating, such as "flying voters" who do multiple registrations can be eliminated by automating the registration process, but some cannot, such as vote-buying. However, Sen. Gordon believes the most damaging form of cheating is the wholesale DAGDAG BAWAS (add-n-subtract) that occurs during the multistage canvass of precinct tallies. That insecure multistage canvassing stage can be shortcircuited by an efficient transmission system direct from each voting precinct to Comelec National HQ where a single central canvassing process can occur. Indeed, there seems no technological reason whatsoever to creating such a transmission subsystem.
I guess what I am getting at is: I know Full Implementation is pretty much impossible and unwise for 2007. But demonstration of a concept that most people will find credible is not impossible and can even better be done and tested if first attempted on a small scale. That concept is that the multi-stage manual canvassing of votes at the municipal, provincial and national levels, where all the wholesale cheating goes on, can indeed be eliminated and replaced with a reliable and transparent modern system.
This coming Friday, the Comelec has called for a meeting to discuss the prospects of Automation 2007.