Aquino urged to appoint new members of Comelec

A LAWMAKER urged President Benigno Aquino III to name new members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to hasten preparations for 2016 polls.

Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III said the appointment of a Comelec chair and two commissioners will accelerate all the necessary plans to ensure the smooth and orderly conduct of elections in May next year.

The terms of Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes and commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph ended in February this year.

President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday that he was still interviewing possible nominees for the position of Comelec's head. He said that one interviewee seemed to be hesitant to accept the post.

He said he hoped to interview another candidate next week. The person, Aquino said has "indicated very strong interest and who has the credentials and the track record to do a good job."

"It is imperative that we have a fully manned Comelec now in the light of so many critical problems hounding the preparations for the 2016 national elections, particularly the stalled automated election program caused by a TRO issued by the Supreme Court on the Smartmatic contract," Albano said.

Albano said the Comelec could not properly prepare and implement plans and programs for the next year's elections under an interim or caretaker leadership and an undermanned commission.

"With the automated election program mired in legal controversies now, a fully manned and functioning poll body is better equipped and empowered to look into alternative plans to ensure the smooth and orderly conduct of national elections in 2016," said Albano.

he high court issued a TRO on the Comelec and Smarmatic-Total Information Management (Smartmatic-TIM) on March 24 following petitions from Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Automated Elections Systems Watch.

Both petitions criticized the Comelec for awarding the contract directly to Smarmatic-TIM without public bidding, which is a violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

"Time is of the essence, and prudence dictates that the Comelec consider alternative plans like the proposed semi-automated or hybrid elections system like the Transparent and Credible Election System or TCREST in which voting and canvassing of votes is conducted manually but the election results are transmitted electronically bi computers through the internet and other telecommunications systems," Albano said.

The lawmaker said some countries abroad have reverted back to manual system of voting and canvassing of votes at the precinct level for reasons of openness and transparency in the conduct of their polls.

Albano cited the election system in Germany, which was fully automated system before, but has since reverted back to the manual system.

"Given this major development in other countries, it makes a lot of sense now for the government, through the Comelec, to seriously consider a contingency plan like the TCREST if the controversy marred Smartmatic-based automated election system has to be dropped because of legal reasons," Albano said. (With SDR/Sunnex)

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