The ‘Basurahan’ lesson: A challenge to the more vigilant civil society (Last part)-A A +A
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
MANILA -- Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez said Monday that the issue revolving around the “basurahan” controversy where electronic election returns were discovered at the dump site in Zayas was simply based on “fear and not so much on science.”
Jimenez said "there's no rational connection with the disposal of the data, but if you infuse this with character as a vote counter, it becomes shady."
He said this is where the "fear" comes in, believing that the data could have been cheated, although he said the act of throwing of election returns can be subject of "mismanagement."
"You already saw and touched the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. It's just a scanner and has no super powers. But precisely, it's new, it gets currency, valuable commodity, the simple fact of throwing away can now have a shady connotation," he said.
In the 2010 elections, former Cagayan de Oro first district representative Rolando Uy ran against Mayor Vicente Emano in the mayoralty post.
In the final tally, Emano won over Uy with just a difference of more or less 2,000 votes.
But for Prof. Bobby Tuazon, policy studies director of Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), Jimenez’s statements were practically from a lighter perspective that favors the efficiency and accuracy of Smarmatic’s PCOS machines.
“James’s perspective comes from an agency to defend,” Tuazon said, based on their own efforts in researching for possible flaws of the machines that will be more likely used again for the 2013 elections.
He said their concerns have been validated as basic as the fact.
“The records will speak who is true and correct,” added Tuazon, who was also the former chairperson of the political science program at the University of the Philippines–Manila.
CenPEG was one of the civil organizations that serve as watchdogs in the free and democratic process of Philippine elections.
Since the introduction of the automated machines by the Comelec in the special Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and 2010 presidential elections, CenPEG and other groups never put a keen eye off on PCOS machine’s efficiency and data accuracy.
Their vigilance have even grown toward the upcoming 2013 elections, especially that Jimenez announced that the Comelec has already purchased these machines from Smartmatic, its unit and software provider, for about P1.8 billion.
And what does this mean in the landscape of Cagayan de Oro civil society watchdogs? As Kontra Daya representative Lengua de Guzman puts it: “There should be initiatives critical on principles that need to be put in line along with vigilance in the elections.”
But she said in order to uphold its aim to fully function as effective watchdogs, civil groups that will be watching the elections should not have any “partisan interest.”
“Although as an individual, they may have their own candidates to support, but it should not be their top consideration when it comes to monitoring the elections,” de Guzman said.
If it was not due to Tropical Storm “Sendong” that hit Cagayan de Oro City last year, perhaps the people will not be fed up by the local government for its alleged laxity and poor governance and implementation of the laws.
Some residents even took the courage of airing out their disappointments in the current administration and his political allies. They claim that had it not for the City Government’s alleged “disregard” to existing policies such as environmental protection and anti-illegal mining policies, thousands of people could have been saved from the flashfloods that “Sendong” brought.
The Internet and the social media also played an important role in fortifying civil society in the city. Eventually, they formed into various civil groups, one of which was able to register itself as a socio-political group at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Now that the election season has come again, these civil society groups are also gearing themselves up, claiming to represent the people of Cagayan de Oro who has long been longing for a change in the local government, more specifically, to the reign of Emano and his allies.
But perhaps, one interesting part to note is the thin line that divides these civil society groups as a watchdog in the affairs of the local government and for them being subjected to be another form of a new breed of political party that will be bias only against Emano and his political group.
Prof. Edmundo Casino, co-convener and president of the Philippine Computer Society, said the proliferation of Cagayan de Oro’s concerned “netizens” participating on topics of governance and social issues is a good sign that the people are becoming vigilant.
“Facebook has become a free market. Now, even the voice that can’t be heard, can be heard,” he said.
He cautioned, however, that it should be exercised with responsibility by calling netizens to adhere to their own set of guidelines.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 24, 2012.