US lauds May 10 automated elections

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Thursday, May 13, 2010


THE United States government on Wednesday congratulated the Philippines for the success of its first fully-automated polls, the first country in Asia to do such a wide-scale project.

In a statement, the US embassy in Manila noted how the Filipinos valued their right to vote by trooping to polling precincts and "taking every step necessary to ensure all ballots were counted".

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"While there are always lessons to be learned, our overwhelming impression is that the Philippines has much to be proud of today (election day)," the US embassy said.

The statement furthered the US government has sent 120 observers for the conduct of automated elections here.

Just like any other citizen, the most powerful nation in the world said it is anticipating a "smooth transition" of government.

To recall outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created a transition team to facilitate the inaugural rites of the incoming president.

In the latest official and unofficial tallies, Senator Noynoy Aquino, the only son of the late President Corazon Aquino and martyred Senator Ninoy Aquino is poised to be the country's 15th president.

Critics too

Known critics of the country's first poll automation also lauded the performance of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the consortium Smartmatic-TIM in the recently concluded May 10 elections.

"The elections, despite our worse apprehensions, did not fail. Credit should be given to them for this triumph of democracy," said lawyer Harry Roque Jr, a co-convener of the Concerned Citizens Movement.

Roque said the success of the system could be attributed to the vigilance of the public and volunteers.

"In precincts where the PCOS machines did not work and a replacement was not immediately forthcoming, the teachers proceeded with the voting sans the machines anticipating that a replacement would arrive," he said.

However, he said the experience did not prove the critics of the Smartmatic completely false, noting that even president-elect Aquino experienced first-hand what they have warned against.

He pointed out that the delays in voting due to the re-clustering of precincts and PCOS machines took hours before being addressed.

"Until now, there are five million votes that still have to be canvassed due to transmission problems," Roque added.

Few days before the elections, CCM petitioned the SC to stop the Comelec from implementing the automated elections following recent glitches in certain parts of the machines.

The high court, however, denied the petition saying the allegations were baseless.

Meanwhile, another election watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) said hackers failed to penetrate the system of the automated elections because of the speed by which the PCOS machines are churning out the results.

But Lente founder and former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod said the vigilance of the public would still play a big role despite the automation of the elections.

"They said speed deters cheating and this is wrong perception. It is speed with right safeguards deters cheating," Monsod added.

"Manual counting and canvassing may be used if there is wrong or discrepancy in the results of the counting, canvassing and transmittal," he said.

Co-convener lawyer Carlos Medina said their group is now collating information and evidence that may be used in filing election-related cases by next week.

He likewise encouraged voters to file complaints to help safeguard the integrity of the elections here in the country.

Form of vindication

In Malacanang, the "successful", "peaceful" and "very credible" elections is a form of vindication to Comelec and the Arroyo government as it contradicted allegations of fraud and other plot that are supposedly planned by the administration to rig poll results.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said the elections had caused some form of division in the country as the electorate took sides and chose their leaders.

But he pointed out that "it is now time to work together and move forward".

He said the election was very credible and comparatively peaceful compared to previous polls citing the overwhelming support of the public who were excited in the conduct of the first automated elections.

He stressed that there are plans to bestow formal recognition to concerned officials involved in the elections, pointing that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had initially issued "verbal commendations".

Mendoza also congratulated the teachers who manned the polling places; the soldiers and policemen who laid their lives on the line to protect the sanctity of the ballots; and the volunteers who were instrumental in the orderly conduct of the elections.

He thanked the media for providing an "extensive and incisive" coverage, and the electorate for patiently queuing polling precincts, and earnestly casting their ballots;

The Palace official agreed with Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales in lauding the first automated process, citing it was among the "beat the odds" legacy agenda of the President.

"I think we should also credit the President for the success of this automated election kasi she was really hands-on when it comes to supporting the Comelec in the performance of its duties," he said.

Sportsmanship

As this developed, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) welcomed the sportsmanship of the presidential candidates who conceded Tuesday to Aquino due to his imminent landslide win.

"It is something new to Filipino culture because before, we had a culture somehow supporting the belief that no candidate would lose, only cheated. Because of poll automation, our political culture is slowly changing for the better," said CBCP spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III.

Those who dropped their presidential bids are Senator Manny Villar, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, tele-evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva, and Senator Richard Gordon.

Olongapo City Councilor JC de los Reyes on Tuesday also conceded to Aquino, but took back his decision Wednesday.

"In as much as I need to honor my word as I conceded the elections for goodwill, we have factual data on hand which unfolded after having conceded (we will soon after release) that indicates conclusive irregularities in the numbers," he told reporters in a text message Wednesday.

"If I do not speak against these findings, then my party's integrity as well as my own will be at risk. Therefore I withdraw my previous statement of conceding the elections," De los Reyes added.

Former President Joseph Estrada and independent candidate Nicanor Perlas, for their part, said they would wait for the results of the official canvass of Congress, while Senator Jamby Madrigal has not yet made any public announcement.

Quitorio, however, called on everyone to respect the decision of Estrada and Perlas not to give up the fight yet, saying it is their right to contest the results.

"We are a democratic country. If one has complaints, he or she must be given the proper forum and his or her grievances addressed. We cannot just dismiss such grievances," he said. (Virgil Lopez/JCV/JMR/Sunnex)

Us lauds may 10 automated elections

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