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Hybrid elections? Not now, maybe

Mario J. Mallari



COMELEC Director James Jimenez finds a lighter Tribune news amusing. ROY PELLOVELLO

Amid perceptions of inability of the present automated system to ensure clean elections, it would still be a tough push for the implementation of the “hybrid system” in the next presidential polls in 2022.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman Director James Jimenez described the process to the proposed hybrid national elections as a rough ride, especially given the time needed to formulate laws and prepare the poll body for its adoption.

Jimenez, during Tuesday’s “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune,” enumerated the difficulties of migrating to a system, much more a totally new concept such as the hybrid polls.

“Change is always difficult, (from a scale of 10) I would say 7 or 8. It is tough,” said Jimenez, who is also the chief of the Comelec Education and Information Department.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of people make is the assumption that all it takes is just to say ‘this is what I like.’ It’s one thing to just say ‘this is what I like,’ it’s another thing to actually make it happen. That is the disconnect,” he added.

Several lawmakers have been advocating a shift to hybrid elections in 2022. Others are pushing for manual voting and counting, or a canvassing mixed with electronic or automated transmission.

Jimenez said that the Comelec has received proposals to go hybrid, ranging from some minor enhancements, to the current or to a totally new concept.

“The range is really wide,” he stressed.

Under the current automated election system, the entire voting is done electronically, except when a voter shades the ballot.

Jimenez said the long process of certifying a system to be used in a particular election, takes at least eight months. It is the same with the present system although it was also used in the past four elections.

He also stressed the need for a law to shift from the current automated system to hybrid.

“It’s difficult to craft laws like that, because the issue of automated elections and making it hybrid is just as complex,” Jimenez averred.

“(But) even though the legislative part is hard, it’s actually the easier part of this whole equation, because you would only need to write the concept, the ideal prospects,” he further said.

The more complex issue comes after the law is enacted, Jimenez pointed out.

“The actual implementation has to go through difficult phases — coming out with the system, making the people comfortable with it, then the actual implementation,” Jimenez explained.

“Remember, there is still no existing system like that (hybrid) in the Philippines and certainly we have not used that system. So if we go hybrid, that is a totally new experience. After that, the difficulty of getting the people to be comfortable with it, public acceptance, and then the actual implementation,” he added.

Since hybrid is a new concept for the Comelec, Jimenez said that it cannot foresee problems that may be encountered before, during and after the actual elections.

Jimenez, however, said that the concept can be pilot tested to test its effectivity.

“I don’t know what our legislators are planning, if there will be a schedule to pilot test it (hybrid). It’s really important that we check, if we have the chance to test drive this system prior to the elections,” he said.

Since 2010, the Comelec has been using the automated elections system introduced by Smartmatic.

In each of the four elections, including two presidential polls, there were questions on the results and claims of electoral fraud persisted.

In fact, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has a pending electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo in connection to the 2016 elections before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Jimenez admitted that there were allegations of electoral fraud but no case has been proven yet.

“Nothing in the last four elections that we used automated election system. There has not been a single case that proved that the results we released were wrong. So as far as we are concerned, that data shows the track record of zero cheating,” Jimenez said.