Group sees planned failure of elections
in HK, Singapore automated polls
22 February 2010
Leaders of the largest global alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ groups today trooped to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) office in Intramuros Manila to raise the alarm bells on an impending failure of the slated automated overseas absentee voting of Filipinos in Hong Kong and Singapore.
“The COMELEC’s nonchalance scares us,” stated Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez in a press conference outside the COMELEC main office. “Filipinos in Hong Kong and Singapore will start voting in seven weeks, but the COMELEC hasn’t come up with the guidelines on the automated balloting. All it has issued so far are scant information through press releases and media interviews.”
Martinez said the automated OAV guidelines is necessary as the process is completely different from the automated voting and counting here in the country. He said, unlike in the Philippines, Filipinos in Hong Kong and Singapore will be voting for a month (April 10 until May 10, 2010) and each Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine will be configured to accommodate 5,000 voters each.
“What will be the COMELEC’s contingency plan in case the machines breakdown in the one month balloting? The COMELEC says transmission of results will only happen at the close of the polls on May 10. Do they have safeguards in place to protect all the votes stored in the machine for an entire month?” asked Martinez.
The Migrante leader also complained of the COMELEC’s deployment of PCOS machines in the two countries. The COMELEC has earlier announced that they will be fielding 30 PCOS machines, four of them spares. But Martinez slammed the poll body’s deployment plan.
“The machines will be open for 10 hours every day for an entire month. Even in the Philippines, we believe the COMELEC and its partner Smartmatic haven’t subjected the PCOS machine to this kind of long and grueling scenario. In short, there’s the real danger that the PCOS machine may not be able to stand and last until the entire process ends. This is aside from the fact that the machines that they’ll be fielding will not be enough given the high risk of breakdowns and other technical glitches in the month long voting,” said Martinez.
With the real risk of machine breakdowns and other problems, Martinez said his group is ‘worried to high heavens’ because the COMELEC has yet to conduct voters’ education among the Filipino community and, most especially, the embassy/consulate personnel who will be tapped to serve as Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEIs).
In addition, Martinez complained of the non-conduct of mock elections and field tests in HK and Singapore. He said, this crucial part of preparations is needed in order for the COMELEC to determine the potential technical and operational problems in advance and make the necessary corrections in time for the balloting as he recalls the recently concluded mock elections in Quezon City and Taguig, which according to him “was as disaster.”
“Given the risks, we are worried to high heavens because in seven weeks, clueless voters in HK and Singapore will have to entrust their precious votes to clueless personnel mandated by law to man the voting and counting machines. God help us all,” he said.
“All indications lead us to believe that the automation of elections for Filipinos in HK and Singapore is designed to fail. There will be failure of elections and the Arroyo regime – thru the COMELEC – is currently laying the groundwork for this to occur,” maintained Martinez.
Failure of elections, he said, will result to the disenfranchisement of 95,355 Filipinos in Hong Kong and 31,851 voters in Singapore. The combined number, according to him, is equivalent to 20% of the total number of registered overseas absentee voters worldwide which now stands at 589,830.###
Garry Martinez, Chairperson, 09393914418
Ailyn Abdula, Media Officer, 09158588318