15 January 2011
A workers’ poll watchdog dared the successor of retired Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo to unlock the “secrets” of the May 10, 2010 automated polls and to hold those accountable for the troubles during last elections.
Workers’ Electoral Watch (WE Watch), a network of workers advocating fraud-free elections, pitched this challenge to the next Comelec chief as it held today the Automated Election System (AES) Evaluation and Policy Recommendations.
“As a first step, the next Comelec chair must order the release of crucial election documents, including the source code, to once and for all settle lingering suspicions and questions regarding the conduct of the automated polls last year,” said Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, WE Watch project manager.
Escresa-Colina said that the poll body has failed to present the source code and the full source code review to the public, as well as the various contracts which election systems provider Smartmatic sealed with other service providers. She also said the Comelec and Smartmatic have yet to produce a comprehensive report on last year’s automated polls.
“He or she must also support calls for a multi-stakeholder probe of the various irregularities of the May 10 polls, which we uncovered based on our monitoring of the election’s conduct,” she said.
WE Watch noted in its poll monitoring various cases of machine failures, logistical delays, pre-shaded ballots, transmission glitches, disenfranchisement, as well as traditional forms of electoral fraud like vote-buying.
More inclusive, transparent
The group also noted that the previous election was a “privatized” one as various service providers handled crucial components of the poll automation project.
“The lesson here is that no matter what technology will be used, poll automation will always suffer from lack of transparency and credibility if it is initiated by private interests rather than public-led,” she added.
“Workers do not want another foreign election systems provider to wield the same control as that enjoyed by Smartmatic during last year’s automated polls. Instead, the Comelec must fully exercise its constitutional mandate in implementing the poll automation project,” Escresa-Colina said.
WE Watch said the Comelec must also harness the expertise and knowledge of the local IT experts in developing the automation technology suited to the local conditions instead of relying on foreign service providers.
“The Comelec must work hand in hand with poll watchdogs, civil society groups and other organizations in every step of the way towards the next elections, from the development of technology to election management and post-election audit. Through this, we can have a more inclusive and democratic elections,” WE Watch said.
* WE Watch is a project supported by the European Union under its European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.
Anna Leah Escresa-Colina
Project Manager, WE Watch
Executive Director, Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER)