By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Comission on Elections (Comelec) is not keen on using the direct-recording electronic (DRE) system for the country’s elections for now.
The proposal stemmed from a Senate Bill 2003 filed by Senator Richard Gordon, who seeks to mandate the use of DRE for national and local polls to make vote counting and results tabulation faster.
The DRE system, in Gordon’s bill, was defined as a type of an automated election system which uses electronic ballots, records or votes by means of an electronic display of a computer.
This way, voters could do away with paper ballots. The results of the voting would also be transmitted elecronically.
But during the recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation on pending bills, including SB 2003, resource speakers were cold to prospects of utilizing the DRE system.
Comelec Director Julio Hernan said that while they do not reject the proposal, a “pressure” that they see in the use of DRE voting machines is its procurement.
Asked by Sen. Aqulino “Koko” Pimentel, committee chairman, if a pilot testing of the proposed DRE system can be conducted in the 2019 elections, Hernan said the Comelec currently finds its hand full.
He said they “will need some time” to formulate terms of reference for the use of the DRE system, especially that they have already a “very constricted” timeline for the May, 2019 polls.
Hernan, for instance, noted that securing a certification from an international certification entity (ICE) would take time.
Director Arwin Serrano, also of the Comelec, said that despite its advantages, it will be “really hard” to use such technology in the country’s elections at present.
National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) Executive Director Eric Alvia also opposed the DRE as it supposedly lacks transparency and security mechanism to protect the people’s votes.
He added elections systems “should be appropriate to the current condition” and that the DRE system would be costly to prepare.
Saying that while he supports the bill’s proposal to allow Filipino corporations in providng the software, political analyst Ramon Casiple, for his part, echoed concerns on transparency.
He said the measure may pave way for the use of a specific technogy which would violate election policy on neutrality.
Lawyer Rona Ann Caritos of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections likewise joined the opposition, saying the DRE would not give Comelec the “flexibility.” She recalled that even legislators did not approve of the DRE for testing during the 2016 national elections.
Dr. Pablo Manalastas of the Philipine Linux Users Group said the DRE would lengthen voting time as the candidates’s names would be displayed per page.
He also warned that the DRE has been declared illegal and unconstitutional in many other countries, such as Germany, and that the government should consider it.
He said election protests would also face difficulties under the DRE system since there would be no more paper ballots to use as evidence.