Push for computerized 2010 polls starts now
By Bong Pedalino
Maasin City (October 14) -- Last time we heard, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Jose Melo declared that the poll body needed P 21 billion to set up a nationwide automated voting system for the 2010 synchronized presidential and local elections.
The huge budget will be intended for the installation of direct recording electronic (DRE) technology, a touch-screen system wherein voters simply finger in a pad or screen the candidates they would elect.
But realizing that some places in the country are sparsely populated, like the far-flung, rural areas, Melo said the optical mark reader (OMR) may be used; OMR is a special paper ballot where a voter fills in or blackens in a space provided the names of candidates he or she likes, then the paper will be feed into a scanner.
Both the DRE and the OMR had been successfully pilot-tested during the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The results had demonstrated that Filipinos are capable of doing away for good the Jurassic style of manual casting and counting of ballots, and join the rest of the developed world, be it so belatedly, in expressing people's will the high-tech way.
More than that – and this reason justifies proceeding with it at all cost -- using the DRE and OMR greatly minimized cheating, sped-up voting procedure and vote count, and in a matter of two or three days (no longer months, mind you) the official winners were already announced and formally declared.
Going for a fast, speedy delivery of results, not to mention credible and honest processes, is priceless, and cheaper even at a P 21 billion price tag.
But to be realistic and practical about it, the DRE and the OMR may be combined to reduce costs.
With the positive experience and favorable overall feedback immediately after the ARMM polls, the nation is now ready and duly conditioned to embark on the historic computerization of the 2010 elections.
Early this month, the Comelec had submitted the P 21 billion supplemental budget for poll automation to the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Comelec Chair Melo was quoted in a report as saying that Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya was "very positive, very receptive" to the proposed budget.
The dream of having an automated polls in our lifetime is already more than ten years in the making.
Now is the right time, precisely the time for congressional budget hearings, that our legislators translate into action the long rhetoric on electoral reforms. This is the right and proper time where they can put money where their mouths are.
Aside from our lawmakers, all of us common folks can help push for computerized 2010 polls.
And I mean push -- pray until something happens!
LOCAL FRONT: It was a welcome sight seeing city hall personnel dancing their best moves during the fun dancing competition last week, part of the opening ceremonies of the week-long employees week. The whole week, indeed, provided a big break from their daily routine sitting behind office desks. But Mayor Maloney Samaco showed to one and all that his mind and body, aside from the rigors of governance, is also into physical sports. The Mayor was the one who dashed around the city gym to light the city hall's version of Olympics 2008 torch. Good work, there, Mayor!
ODDLY YOURS: Many people end up six feet below the ground, either in a common grave or in some posh memorial parks for those who can afford. Others collect the ash of their dearly departed, while a few loved ones may be privileged to be frozen or mummified. Those who can further afford can see their dead, or rather turn them, into sparkling diamonds. That's what a Swiss company, called Algordanza, does. Aside from diamonds, ashes may be turned into precious stones as desired by any client. For a fee, of course, which was not divulged. (PIA-Southern Leyte) [top]