Congress oversight body hears alternative poll automation system
March 24, 2015

On March 19, 2015, during the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on AES hearing, AES Watch member and former COMELEC Commissioner Augusto Lagman presented the  “Transparent and Credible Elections” (TCRES) system as an alternative to automation. He, along with other advocates of transparent elections, supported the pilot testing of such a system.

The hearing, co-chaired by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and Rep. Senen Sarmiento, was attended by CenPEG, conveners of the election watchdog AES Watch, and other clean elections advocates. Four past and current presidents of the Philippine Computer Society (PCS) – Lagman, Nelson Celis, who also serves as AES Watch spokesperson, Toti Casino, and Leo Querubin (PCS current head) also attended.

Lito Averia of AES Watch and Comelec Advisory Council, Eric Alvia of NAMFREL, and Dr. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco of PHILCONSA, were also present.

JCOC also welcomed the holding of a public demo to be hosted by the oversight committee where IT experts can show that the Smartmatic-supplied PCOS machine can be tampered. Before he retired, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes dared Lagman to show that the system can be tampered. Brillantes later backtracked on his challenge. But AES Watch, through two statements submitted to the JCOC, asked the committee to allow the public demo adding that public interest takes precedence over Smartmatic’s refusal due to alleged proprietary rights.

The hearing was highlighted by a repartee between former COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes and Evita Jimenez, the Executive Director of CenPEG. Jimenez questioned why Brillantes was responding to questions by the JCOC members addressed to COMELEC when he is no longer part of it. In a flare of temper, Brillantes asserted that others in the hearing are not authorized to be there. This sparked negative reactions from other resource persons present, including former Tarlac governer Margarita Cojuangco, who is facing COMELEC investigations for alleged electoral sabotage.

According to Lagman, a 2014 study conducted by the University of Sydney and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, entitled the “Electoral Integrity Project” and headed by Harvard scholar Pippa Norris, ranks the Philippines in the bottom third (rank 91 of the 127 countries included in the study) in the rating on perceptions of electoral integrity, despite the automation in 2010 and 2013, thus contesting the widespread perception that automation leads to better elections. Lagman also cited the experience of many developed countries (e.g. Germany and Ireland) going back to manual voting and adapting a system similar to the proposed TCRES. Eighteen of 30 countries have gone back to manual voting.

In the TCRES system, Lagman - who is also a co-convener of AES Watch – said voting and precinct counting are conducted manually, but with the aid of technology. Only the canvassing at the city/municipal, provincial and national levels will be automated. Lagman argued that this is crucial because dagdag-bawas (padding and shaving of votes) happens in canvassing and not in precinct counting. In his proposal, the projected cost for the TCRES is only PhP4 billion compared to the PCOS machines worth PhP 12 billion.

Other clean elections advocates present during the hearing also opposed the COMELEC proposal to eventually shift to direct-recording electronic (DRE) system of voting, arguing that such a system has less transparency and accountability. They also raised the problems with the PCOS system, citing facts based on the experience of the 2010 and 2013 elections, including the recall of 76,000 CF cards a few days before the 2010 elections because of inaccuracy. IT experts from the PCS reiterated their willingness to conduct a public demonstration in order to show that the PCOS machines manufactured by Smartmatic are prone to tampering. Their proposal was supported by Senator Koko Pimentel, the committee chair. (Report by Celine Socrates, CenPEG)

See the report by the Electoral Integrity Project:
Latest posts
Back to top Back to top >>
Telefax +6329299526 email:; Copyright ©2005
Center for People Empowewrment in Governance (CenPEG), Philippines. All rights reserved