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The politics of election automation and the need for transparency

I am all for modernizing and automating the elections, but as I wrote in Technopinoy, the challenge will not be in the technology, but in the politics that surround it.

Take the statement of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who, as Conrad Quintos writes, commented that the automating of vote counting will ensure faster and cleaner elections.  It won’t eliminate cheating, he says, but it will be minimized. 

However, he did add that Malacañang is aggressively pushing for the use of Mega Pacific Consortium’s counting machines.

Why on earth would anyone, much less the presumptive president, even think of using the machines and/or services of Mega Pacific? If it hadn’t been for Mega Pacific, whose winning bid was voided by the Supreme Court after it found it to have had no legal qualification to bid, and for the members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who to a man and woman awarded the prize to Mega Pacific though they probably knew it had no qualification to bid, the last elections would already have been computerized. Neither Mega Pacific nor any of the commissioners (the “probably” before “knew” is to allow that some of the commissioners made an honest mistake) has been punished for that heinous crime, which resulted in the restoration of the old, laborious and cheater-friendly ballot-box system and the continuation of rule of an unelected president.

It’s bad enough that a culprit isn’t punished. Do we have to reward him, too? But I can understand why that would be “one of the wishes of the President.” She knows what it means to be a culprit and be rewarded.

I don’t necessarily share the same passion of Conrad Quintos, nor would I describe the situation in the same flowery vocabulary, but it does beg the question: Why Mega Pacific?

I’m sure there will be an explanation.  Whether or not the explanation is acceptable is, of course, another thing.  But this whole episode points out to one essential aspect in governance—the need for transparency.  And this is a necessary requirement whenever one body (the government) is entrusted with the funds (taxes) of another body (the taxpayers) to implement a certain mandate (automating the elections), otherwise it opens up all sorts of conspiracy theories and accusations of favoritism and corruption.

Transparency means that the entity entrusted with the funds has to explain each and every decision and the thought process that led to that decision.  People may not necessarily agree with the logic or the rationale, people may have different opinions on how the decision should have been reached, but at least there would be some reduction of speculation.  And, at best, it would force the decision-makers to weigh their choice carefully and methodically—who knows what kind of backlash that can result from a poor decision? 

It’s true not only for the government, but also for private and corporate entities.  I know I am beating a dead horse and sounding like a broken record, but this is also true for ICAP’s selection of Ability Office in behalf of its internet cafe members.

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  • vmyap

    I saw one on d-tour about a certain machine that is being use in America. It a simple machine that can handle automation voting. It is fully automated, meaning theres no need for human interaction except for operating the control button and the voting process itself. I forgot the name of the machine and company who distributes them. By the way, security is said to be tight with this machine and its hard to be hack.