Comelec eyes reforms for midterm polls
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As the smoke from the election clears, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is eyeing reforms in time for the 2019 midterm polls, Chairman Andres Bautista said.

According to Bautista, the Comelec now intends to “review and assess” the May 9 elections that saw several record-breaking feats, which included the fastest printing of ballots and the fastest transmission rate.

“I don’t want to carry my own chair, it’s up to you to assess. But for me, although we had very good outcomes, there is still room for improvement and that’s what I’m aiming for now,” he said in an ambush interview.

A month before election day, the Comelec finished printing 56.7 million ballots, including 54.3 million official ballots, in just 49 days. In the 2010 and 2013 elections, it took 81 days and 51 days, respectively, to finish these tasks.

Bautista also stressed that the Comelec transmitted 96.14 percent of election returns to the transparency server as compared to 90 percent in 2010 and 76 percent in 2013, respectively. 

He added the poll body coordinated well with the telecommunication companies to make sure that the transmission would be “adequately supported by infrastructures.”

Reforms

The poll chief said that since the Comelec had already proclaimed all 12 winning senators and 46 party-list organizations, they would now focus on introducing reforms in the election system.

“I will be calling for a strategic planning conference among various Comelec officials so that we can assess what we did well and what we can improve upon so that for the next elections, we can build upon the gains of these elections,” he said.

Bautista is also looking at a possible amendment of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), or Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, which was passed in 1985.

He believes the OEC is already obsolete, especially since its provisions were formulated when the elections were still manual.

“That’s one of our priority agenda items. We want to come up with a draft Omnibus Election Code that will be more reflective of the current situation especially on technology, how technology has changed our elections,” the official added.

He cited the “ladderized way” of proclaiming winning candidates where the votes are counted and canvassed in various stages including the polling precincts, municipal/city, provincial and national levels.

“Why do we have to go through the ladder when we can already see the results with the three servers? Why can’t we make a direct proclamation?” he asked.

Bautista is also looking at adjusting the campaign spending limits provided in the OEC because it no longer reflects the prevailing market prices. 

Under the OEC, a presidential candidate is allowed to spend P10 per voter plus P5 from the political party.

Those running for senator down to local posts can spend only up to P3 per voter plus P5 from the political party, while the spending limit for an independent bet is P5 per voter.

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