May 2013 automated election shows urgency of electoral reforms


MANILA — I write this with a deep sense of urgency and desperation (or is it exasperation?). The interest of the media regarding what happened during the May 2013 elections has practically died down. KontraDaya, AES Watch, and progressive groups are the only ones still persisting in raising critical issues regarding the automated election system, how the Comelec handled the May 2013 elections, and how the 2016 elections should be different.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes has been arrogant, obdurate, and useless. After making shortcuts and disregarding the security features of the automated election system – making it vulnerable to manipulation – and willfully violating the automated election law, Brillantes has even boasted that the May 2013 elections was the best the country ever had. He has been ignoring, nay blasting, criticisms and suggestions regarding the automated election system. He has rejected all calls for a full manual audit. And his only response to questions regarding how the Comelec handled the May 2013 elections, its lack of transparency, and the probability of errors and manipulation of results is that he is staking his reputation that the elections were clean and honest.

Well, to start with, Brillantes does not have much to put on the table. He was into private practice before accepting the position of head of the Comelec. And most law firms and lawyers who are into private practice – no insult intended– defend the interests of any client who is willing to hire and pay them the right price, without any scruples. They would exploit every angle, every ambiguity, and every technicality of the law just to make their client win. Where do you think all those lawyer jokes come from? The biggies even resort to bribing big time just to win a case.

If Brillantes is anywhere near the integrity and reputation of people’s lawyers, such as the late Romy Capulong, I would have believed him.

Brillantes also challenged those raising questions regarding the accuracy of the election results to “pick a ballot box” saying he would open it. But this is no game show. It is the integrity of the whole electoral system that is on the line.

It is time for President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to intervene and order the Comelec to conduct a full manual audit to erase all doubts regarding the results, to abide by the automated election law, and to conduct an honest-to-goodness assessment of the May 2013 elections with the end in view of reviewing the current system and instituting reforms in time for the 2016 synchronized national and local elections. After all, isn’t electoral reform an integral part of his centerpiece program of good governance?

As I have mentioned in a previous analysis: corruption, which the Aquino government has vowed to stamp out, begins with the elections. For how else would a politician who spent millions, some billions, just to be elected recoup his or her campaign expenditures? A presidential candidate who spent hundreds of millions could never recover his or her campaign expenditures from his or her salary alone, amounting to around P988,000 ($24 thousand) annually nor would a vice president whose salary is around P800,000 ($19,500) annually during the six years of his or her term. How about a senator or congressman who earns around P700,000 ($17 thousand), a governor or mayor who earns around P504,000 ($12 thousand) and whose term of office is only for three years?

President Aquino’s silence regarding the issue does not help any. After all, he is not known to keep quiet on issues that he feels are important. For example, when he wanted then Chief Justice Renato Corona removed, he took every opportunity to take a swipe at the chief justice. President Aquino even presided over meetings with his allies in Congress to push the impeachment of Corona.

If President Aquino is really sincere in his so-called “daang matuwid” or righteous path, and in achieving good governance and stamping out corruption, the time to act is now. President Aquino should not let the Comelec arbitrarily brush these issues aside, only to resurface during the 2016 elections. If the president would not act on these critical issues, then everything that the Aquino government has been declaring is merely for show. (

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