Commentary: Guarding the Comelec
by Bong Pedalino
Maasin City (11 March) -- It's all systems go for the computerized elections next year, no doubt about it.
The moment the President shall sign the supplemental budget of P 11.3 billion for poll automation both houses of Congress had earlier approved, all voting Filipinos will be part of a historic moment when we shall have a taste of "class" come voting time on the second Monday of May, 2010, no matter if we came in late than our Asian neighbors.
This early, many are excited to see how these really work, and how this works out well, with a promise of a radical hope this change can hopefully bring into our electoral life.
The road to fulfillment, however, is strewn with no ordinary challenges. For one, there was the shadow of the bungled Mega pacific deal, which frustrated an early attempt at computerization in 2004.
For another, the stakes and odds have risen with the times, from a P 1billion computerization bill in 2004 to P 11.3 billion at present, or roughly 110% in money terms, hence the necessity that we cannot afford to lose.
And still another. With a checkered past, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be hard-pressed to come across as credible and worthy of the trust bestowed by the Senate and the House, and the people at large.
Now more than ever, the Comelec needs all the support it can get to get this project going. Comelec chair Jose Melo was right when he expressed fear that critics -- who are always around -- would find minute flaws in the bidding process if only to derail the ultimate plan to automate next year's elections, with no sense of offering constructive solutions.
Now more than ever, the Comelec needs to show to all and sundry that it is transparent in all aspects of its operations; at one point Melo had agreed that the bidding procedures be covered live by television, by the tri-media, and so at least this is a good starting point for cultivating confidence-building.
Indeed, this is a critical period to guard the Comele to make sure that it has complied as faithfully and as reasonably possible to all the provisions stipulated by the soon-to-be-signed law on poll computerization.
But guarding the Comelec to perform its constitutionally mandated task and functions is just one part of the equation.
We must also help guard the poll body from outside interventions that could mar its otherwise smooth operations in carrying out its constitutionally mandated task and functions.
While we can demand accountability from poll officials, we can also demand accountability to all groups and sectors whose nuisance interference can be traced as a leading cause once next year's automated polls will fail, and fail miserably.
For actual computerized elections to happen, we see right now the light at the end of the tunnel. Let us all be vigilant to ensure that the tunnel itself will not come crumbling down.
LOCAL FRONT: The Philippine Government Mobile Action (PGMA) "Serbisyo Muna" is all set to be in Southern Leyte province for three days. Starting tomorrow, March 12, the PGMA Medical and Dental Mission is at Saint Bernard, then on March 13, at Sogod, and on Saturday, March 14, at Maasin City, with a matching Jobs Fair initiated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). May all those who need these services make use of this rare opportunity.
ODDLY YOURS: Last month, February, 2009, Police authorities in Hungary cornered a notorious 83-year old female thief when she entered a house. Kosztor Sandorne, at the time of her arrest, had a criminal record dating back about sixty years. Hungarian media dubbed her as "Flying Gizi" because she liked to flee from the crime scene using commercial flights. But the somewhat celebrated thief did not use her usual escape tactics last month. She was reported as saying she was in a house at the time of her arrest because she was trying to save money. (PIA-Southern Leyte) [top]