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Rio exit sends polls off balance

Mario J. Mallari

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COMELEC spokesman James Jimenez explains preparations for the 2022 elections would be tough, but the poll body can manage it well. ROY PELLOVELLO

The resignation of Undersecretary Eliseo Rio from the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) will impact on the preparations being made by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the 2022 presidential elections.

During Tuesday’s “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez admitted that Rio’s resignation from DICT came as a shocker to the commission.

Jimenez said that as undersecretary of the DICT, Rio also sits as head of the Comelec Advisory Council in charge of recommending technology for the election body to use during actual polls.

“Yes, it has impact,” Jimenez replied when asked if Rio’s resignation would affect the Comelec’s ongoing preparations for the 2022 presidential elections, adding “only it is not being talked about now because it (Rio’s resignation) is still fresh.”

Jimenez is not discounting the possibility that the Comelec would be led to a different direction from what Rio had pursued.

“So, everything is up in the air,” said Jimenez, who is also Comelec’s Education and Information Department head.

Rio said he left his post due to some conflicting views with other officials in the agency. Among the points of contention were the P300 million confidential funds lodged with the agency.
He has been very vocal against the DICT’s confidential funds.

Rio served as acting secretary of the DICT and led the bidding process for the third slot as mobile communications provider in 2018 — one of the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Former Sen. Gregorio Honasan was subsequently appointed as DICT secretary.

“I don’t know (exactly) what would be the effect of his resignation (but) certainly they will have to find a representative to the group. How long that process would take, maybe that will be the big issue here,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jimenez said the Comelec is continuously preparing for the 2022 national elections.

He said the commission has parallel preparations in various tracks.

“We have preparations for overseas voting, for registration and for the automated elections and so on,” Jimenez explained.

Currently, the Comelec has ongoing registration.

Jimenez said that they are also eyeing an online registration and voting for overseas Filipinos to encourage them to participate during the elections, noting the low turn out in the past polls.

“We have been planning for pilot testing for online voting. I think every budget year we mention this, so hopefully we can muster more champions this year so that we can get that go,” Jimenez said.

This early, however, Jimenez is standing firm on the integrity of the automated election system used by the Comelec in the 2019 midterm elections.

He cited the surveys showing that 94 percent of the respondents expressed satisfaction to the results.

Jimenez maintained that while there were allegations of electoral fraud, nothing has been proven.

“There were attempts to prove that cheating had occurred but when their proof was subjected to independent testing, it failed. So it showed that there was no proof at all,” he said.

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