Poll watchdogs urged to ‘help build trust’

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Various election watchdogs, including the Commission on Elections (Comelec) were recently urged to “help build trust and not mistrust or distrust.”

Pampanga Third District Representative Oscar Rodriguez, co-chair of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, told Sun.Star Pampanga that during a recent hearing on the Automated Elections System, progress report on biometrics registration, online voting and expenditures for the 2016 national and local elections, he appealed to the poll stakeholders to “not cause unnecessary mistrust or distrust but rather build trust to ensure efficient elections.”

“Kaming dalawa ni [committee chairman] Senator [Aquilino] Koko Pimentel [III], dininig namin iyung mga obserbasyon ng tinatawag nating election watchdogs at expertise ng ilan kagaya ni [former Comelec chief Sixto] Brillantes and of course, Comelec, regarding sa concerns nila,” said Rodriguez.

“I emphasized let us not cause unnecessary mistrust or distrust. Let us build trust kako. Hangga ngayon eh. Pag tinesting natin iyung credibility ng AES, kawawa ang mananalo,” he said.

During the hearing, Comelec officials demonstrated the operation of the new vote-counting machines or VCMs which election watchdog groups expressed apprehensions over the integrity of the machines.

Comelec chair Andres Bautista said in the hearing that the poll body had decided not to print receipts for the voters, which is provided for in the VCMs, because of time constraints, among other reasons.

Bautista also said the poll body was also inclined to disable a screen in the VCM that would allow voters to review their votes after they turned in their ballots, also because of time constraints.

Pimentel, for his part, lamented that the VCMs that the Comelec presented have new features that would enhance the transparency of the voting process but which the Comelec will not use in the May elections.

“So they just made us believe in these machines but when Election Day comes, these machines are not so believable because they will disable (these features). So what’s the point?” said Pimentel. (JTD)

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