Group urges Comelec to fix glitches in AES first for OAV

AMID the recent proposal made by a Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner to subject additional places with more than 20,000 registered overseas absentee voters to automated election system (AES), a Filipino migrants rights group in the Middle East today urged the Comelec ‘to first fix the glitches in AES and ensure that it will never happen during the month-long overseas absentee voting.’

Weeks ago, Comelec commissioner Lucenito Tagle recommended to the Comelec En banc the inclusion of 5 places where automated elections will be conducted -in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait, Jeddah, and Riyadh -in addition to Singapore and Hong Kong, where automated elections took place in 2010.

Per Comelec records, registered AOVs in the places mentioned above are as follows: Abu Dhabi with 21,418, Jeddah with 42,454 voters, Kuwait with 28,458 voters, Dubai with 30,513 voters, and Riyadh with 62,509 voters.

“We are raising our reservation on the proposal to include the 5 places here in the Middle East under automated election system (AES) though in principle we are amenable, but given the numerous glitches reported on the 2010 AES-OAV in Hong Kong and Singapore, we are asking Comelec to fix the glitches first,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona citing reports from Migrante colleagues who were able to witness the conduct of May 2010 AES-OAV in Hong Kong and Singapore, pointed some of the irregularities in the conduct of AES.

“One, ballots accepted by the PCOS machine even if an ordinary ballpoint pen was used. Comelec said before that the customized pen was supposedly the only one that the machine will recognize. Second, the breakdown of PCOS machines due to humidity that caused regular voting to stop for more than two hours, and third, ballot accepted by the PCOS machine even after more than four tries which the Smartmatic and the Comelec said were the maximum number of tries a voter can have, are among the AES glitches,” Monterona noted.

Monterona added that if the AES glitches enumerated above will not be fixed, ‘it will lead to pulling out of CF cards subject to reconfiguration that will cast doubt on the sanctity of the OAV process, which we don’t want to happen.’

Monterona, however, clarified that his group will welcome a detailed proposal from the Comelec for the inclusion of the said 5 places and how the AES glitches could be fixed.

“The OFWs, through their organizations and leaders, should be allowed to scrutinize the Comelec proposed implementing rules and regulation in the conduct of AES abroad in line with our aim to have a fraud-free, honest, and orderly OAV,” he suggested.

Monterona added that his group will strongly suggest to the Comelec, noting the special character of overseas absentee voting with the limitations imposed by the host governments, that there must be close coordination and participation of Filipino community leaders at every posts and witness the conduct of the OAV-AES to counting of votes to transmittal of the result.

‘Duly accredited OFWs party-list groups must have their representatives in the election board of canvassers.’

Monterona also underscores the need for a massive voters’ education campaign about AES processes in countries where OAV will be done through AES. ‘Of course, there must be voters’ education in places where manual and personal voting is prescribed,” he added.

“Without massive voters’ education about AES processes, then we fear that many will be disenfranchised, if not negatively impact the turnouts of OAV in these countries mentioned above,” Monterona lamented.

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