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PIA Press Release
2006/10/23

Commentary: Computerized polls, at last

By Bong Pedalino

Tacloban City (23 October) -- The Senate has finally come to its senses. After much saliva-spouting, violent debate it has approved the partial conduct of automated elections in 2007, preparatory for a full-scale one in 2010.

(Actually, the Senate has also approved the Biofuels Bill, but we reserve that topic for another story. Pretty soon, the anti-terror bill will follow, and that again will be another column story, hopefully.)

Curiously, it was Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos who displayed the least excitement, even acting like he was unhappy, with the Senate’s approval. He cited the lack of time in preparing for a machine-validated manner of vote counting.

But the fast-talking Senator Richard Gordon prevailed, and it was to his credit that he did that. Gordon, the prime mover in the Senate for computerized elections, took Abalos to task so that the law, now in the bicameral conference committee, can be given flesh.

***

And it was to Abalos’ credit as well that he acted with dispatch, calling the technology experts in a meeting to try to draft and formulate an initial selection of areas in the country where computerized polling can be pilot-tested.

Last Friday, October 20, it was decided that the following places be automated for the purpose of the 2007 elections: Batanes in the Northern tip of Luzon, the National Capital Region, Cebu province, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

At least it was an even distribution in geographic location, with a mix of poor and rich provinces.

***

So everything has been set, the legal, the technical, and the funds to the tune of P 100 Million to implement the plan. The general expectation was that in the priority provinces official election results can be had within 48 hours, using electronic transmission of votes.

Not everything is worry-free, though. Within the seven-month period from now up to May, 2007, all stakeholders must be vigilant to avoid a repeat of the Mega deal issue which continues to hound the Comelec, the Ombudsman’s absolution notwithstanding.

Abalos and company should not mess around the second chance at achieving poll automation which has been long overdue. They need all our collective support to do just that.

***

LOCAL FRONT: Many students exhibited symptoms of Hepa A infection in Maasin City last week. It was significant to note that many of those afflicted were students from elementary, high school, and college, suggesting that food and water in homes, school canteens, street food outlets, and in boarding houses may have been contaminated with the virus, so local health authorities immediately took the necessary action. DOH Representative Letty Tan had documented one infection from computer use in an internet cafe. The good thing about this is that the virus can be fought with the right medication, rest, and proper personal hygiene, including a clean home surroundings. But those who have shown symptoms like slight fever, headache, or stomach ache have been advised to see a doctor and avoid self-medication. Hopefully, this will pass the soonest time possible.

ODDLY YOURS: The so-called “Koga papers” were principally the solid basis used by Gen. MacArthur to assert his dream of coming back to the Philippines through a perfect landing site at Leyte . The Koga papers referred to the documents written by Japanese Admiral Mineichi Koga, who was the Commander-In-Chief of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Admiral Koga wrote that Leyte was the weakest link, and thus was vulnerable to attack and capture as few Japanese soldiers could defend it. These top secret documents were contained in a box when found by Cebuano guerillas. It was ascertained that the box was one of the cargoes inside a plane that was forced to land at Barrio Sangat, San Fernando , Cebu , because of bad weather. Eventually, the Koga papers reached the hands of Gen. MacArthur and, as they say, the rest was history. (PIA) [top]

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