COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) Spokesman James Jimenez said in a statement on Monday the commission welcomes the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) initiative of hosting a technology fair to explore available technological options for use in the midterm elections of 2019.
To effectively recommend the best technology available for use in the upcoming midterm elections, CAC, through the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), is holding a two-day automated election system (AES) technology fair on July 26 and 27 at the Novotel Hotel in Quezon City.
The two-day event, which will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days, is open to the public and is expected to feature some of the best and latest election technology from foreign and local developers. It is aimed to help CAC perform its task of recommending to the Comelec the best, most appropriate, secure, and cost-effective election mechanism for use in the elections, as mandated by Republic Act (RA) 9369.
“The Commission believes this is an important first step towards the CAC’s final technology recommendation. The Commission likewise welcomes the participation of local technology proponents, and looks forward to seeing solutions that are responsive to the needs of the electorate and the electoral process,” Jimenez said.
Based on the technology to be presented, explained, and demonstrated by various developers in the two-day fair, CAC is bound to submit its final recommendation to the Comelec on the first week of August. The Comelec en banc will thereafter decide whether or not to adopt the council’s recommendations.
Among the developers participating in the event are local developers Precint Automated Tallying System (Patas) and Transparent Election System (Tapat). Also joining are IP Converge, Laxton Group, and Smartmatic International Corp., which has been Comelec’s chosen developer for the past three automated national elections—a choice that gained for the commission harsh criticism from several election watchdog groups, such as the Automated Election System Watch, transparentelections.org, and Reform Philippines Coalition (RPC).
These groups, together with representatives from Tanggulang Demokrasya (TanDem) and National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) are in agreement that the last three automated elections have been subject to fraud and massive cheating. According to these groups, security features required by RA 9369 were ignored by Comelec and Smartmatic.
The possibility of election fraud in the past automated elections has resulted in doubts about the integrity and legitimacy of the AES, as well as numerous cases and recount petitions filed before the Congress and the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, the most controversial of which would be the ongoing protest of losing 2016 vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against winning opponent and now Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni Robredo.
While a number of poll watchdog groups are advocating for a revert to what they believe to be more reliable manual elections, CAC is sticking to an automated mechanism, and instead calls on the public to be more participatory in the search for the best, most secured automated election technologies.
DICT Secretary Rodolfo A. Salalima, acting Chairperson of the CAC, had addressed the public to participate in the technology fair:
“We call on the public, in the interest of transparency, and because the future of our country will start in this trade fair. Please come, make observations, and look at the machines. If you have good critique, suggestions, or contributions towards further improving our electoral systems and processes, please do so and we will appreciate you doing us that favor,” Salalima said.
DICT, together with the Department of Education, the Department of Science and Technology, and individuals from the academe, information and communications technology organizations, and nongovernmental electoral reform organizations comprise the Comelec Advisory Council.