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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Why oh why, with all the preparations, did Comelec come up with so many defective VCMs that heightened suspicions of hocus-picos on poll outcome? Recruit a Comelec head with impeccable integrity and professional IT experts to help him. Too many boo-boos in recent exercise---a shame. .



Why oh why did we have so many malfunctioning vote-counting machines (VCMs) in the recent elections when the Comelec had more than sufficient time to put them in order since the 2016 presidential elections?  This was the question on many citizens' minds as election day stretched out last Monday, May 13, and the ugly reality of malfunctioning VCMs came to fore once again across the country.

There were easily 400-600 malfunctioning VCMs that had to be replaced around 2 pm. of election day, and although Comelec officials were quick to assure that it has 10,000 VCMs ready as replacement (!), the question on many minds was:  why couldn't we have had those machines that were working RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING? Why use the ones they were unsure of?


Malfunctioning machines is so THIRD WORLD. WRONG. FIFTH WORLD PA NGA! And it encourages cheating and accusations all over the place.


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Among those who encountered defective VCMs were the camps of former VP Jojo and Nancy Binay,  Grace Poe and Pasig mayoralty candidate and ultimate winner Vico Sotto. It took five hours before the aberration could be fixed in Sotto's case, as at least 35 VCMs were not working in Pasig.  Faulty machines were also recorded in Datu Sinsuat in Maguindanao, the Central School in Jolo, Balabag in Kidapawan City and certain precincts in Marawi City. Many other glitches probably went unreported.


This prompted ACT Teacher party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio to opine that automation's benefit is quick and transparent counting of votes, but "It's beginning to feel like a throwback to the pre-automation era." What a shame before the world!


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The chaos created by malfunctioning machines all across the archipelago invited even minds not normally malicious to suspect and fear that monkey-business was being promoted by Comelec officials. This, in turn, could lead to the avalanche of protest votes which could clog up the work of the poll body---so that it becomes entirely possible that grease money could be coughed up by candidates who wanted their complaints settled fast. 


More than anything, however, it destroys the faith of our people in our elections.

One Comelec official had the temerity to state that technical glitches were just among the many headaches that sprung up during election day. But why? Wasn't there enough time to prepare for the 2019 mid-term elections? Such glitches created the most destructive atmosphere for the recent elections as it prayed on the suspicions of many candidates---and their supporters---that cheating was going to be routine again in these elections. May 13 proceeded under a most unhealthy atmosphere.


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I submit that the administration should endeavor FROM HEREON to put the management of the Comelec in the hands of technical people who fully understand how to run this most important public office in such a way as to eliminate---to the best of their abilities---the technical glitches that spring up every election. Let's look for bureaucrats who will not regard these SYSTEMIC ABERRATIONS always  as an act of God. 


With all due respect, God doesn't favor frauds and stupidities. In the first place, such argument is blasphemous,  for as the story of the Creation tells us, God looked at His work and liked what He saw. He certainly wouldn't like to be blamed for malfunctioning VCMs, which is the realm of stupid and inefficient, perhaps even evil-plotting men.

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One problem with Comelec is that  since time immemorial it has been run either by ex-politicians or ex-jurists, under whom the technical guys work. Politicians such as Ben Abalos and Sheriff Abas have headed Comelec and jurists such as Hilario Davide, Jr., Bernardo Park, Harriet Demetriou, Alfredo Benipayo and Jose Melo were among its top executives.


I submit that we should take the Comelec away from the clutches of ex-politicians and ex-jurists and entrust the poll body---a most critical instrument, PERHAPS THE MOST CRITICAL, in a democracy--- first and foremost, to technical professionals with a reputation for integrity, so as to cure it of its periodic ailments come election time. Recruiting professionals would not only free the poll body from suspicions of partisanship, it would also professionalize the tough job of managing the elections.


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What the administration and the Comelec leadership seem to want the electorate to accept is the reality that our elections will always have such glitches and we just have to learn to live with them. This is a very Third World attitude which is shameful. In addition, it is most unhealthy, as those glitches give rise to election disputes arising from suspicions of cheating, which often ends up with violence.


Such machine aberrations condition the Filipino people to accept elections as always dirty and malfunctioning, and this attitude---accepting the incompetence and the corruption---is most unhealthy for our people, who should be exposed to excellence in every endeavor.  This is also grave injustice to our heroes, such as Jose Rizal who died so that we may all see the dawn.


Let's have free, clean and glitches-free elections we can be proud of to the world.




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