Sen. Chiz Escudero has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ditch its plan to use a combination of manual and computerized elections next year and exert all efforts instead to ensure that the May 2016 national polls will still be fully automated.
Escudero reiterated his objection to the so-called “hybrid” elections after the Comelec stated that the Precinct Automated Tally System (PATaS), which would combine manual and automated processes, remains an option for the poll body in next year’s elections.
In fact, the Comelec already tested the hybrid system when it conducted a mock poll on June 27 at the Bacoor National High School in Cavite province.
For 2015, the Comelec received a total of P16.8 billion budget, but Escudero said he would look into spending plan of the agency for the automated polls if only to ensure a clean, orderly and credible 2016 elections.
Escudero said that reverting to manual voting system in 2016 would be a step backwards to a process marred by rampant cheating and other fraudulent election practices in the past.
He said the proposal for hybrid polls “raises the chilling prospect of a wide-scale electoral cheating similar to what happened during the 2004 presidential elections.”
“It brings back memories of the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy, which had cast doubt on the results of the 2004 presidential elections,” Escudero said.
The senator earlier warned that the Comelec was treading on dangerous ground with its proposal to use a hybrid election system next year, saying it would defeat the purpose of computerizing the elections.
“It’s a step backwards after having fully automated the elections previously. Returning to manual elections is a cause for serious concern due to its dangerous implications on the country’s electoral process,” Escudero said.
He said the country could not afford to have another “Hello Garci” scandal, widely considered as the worst electoral fraud in Philippine history.
“Hello Garci” refers to the wiretapped conversation between then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the canvassing of presidential votes in 2004.
In that phone conversation, Arroyo was supposedly asking “Garci” to make sure she would lead by one million votes over her closest rival, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.