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Garcia on Comelec 2022 poll performance: Much improvement needed

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
Garcia on Comelec 2022 poll performance: Much improvement needed
COMELEC staff assist early bird voters in Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City on May 9, 2022.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — For its performance in the conduct of the recent national and local elections, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia has given the poll body a grade of 8.5 out of a perfect 10.

Garcia explained in an interview with ANC that he could only give 8.5 because “there is much room for improvement on the part of the Comelec.”

He said that while they were able to prevent the repeat of the “ñ” problem experienced during the 2016 elections or the seven hour glitch in 2019, the problems with many vote counting machines (VCMs) and the SD cards still persisted.

It was reported that almost 2,000 VCMs malfunctioned on election day such as paper jams, some rejected ballots, and glitches.

Garcia also noted other areas for improvement such as on the aspect of information technology; greater training of personnel; continuing engagement with the electorate and the public in general; codification of law and election regulation; strengthening ties and cooperative efforts with partner agencies, citizens arm and all stakeholders; and stronger policies on employees welfare and protection.

“Every election is a learning experience. Hopefully this is for the better and hopefully, by the next election we would be able to make improvements on these problems that emerged,” he said.

The commissioner added that there was a high voter turnout of 83.4 percent of 67.4 million registered voters casting their votes, which might have caused some VCMs to malfunction.

The May 9 polls were said to have the highest voter turnout in the country’s history.

But Garcia reiterated his view that the VCMs, which were leased in 2016, should already be replaced with new machines.

“We have to retire these machines. It’s high time that we either purchase the machines or rent a new one, and the procurement process should start or begin,” he said.

“In this case, we cannot purchase the machine. We could only lease because the purchase of the machine is so expensive because you are going to have the storage and the warehousing and the maintenance. While if it is rental, the cost would be lower and this has been the practice in the Comelec,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Comelec Employees’ Union has expressed its support for the confirmation of Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, which remains pending before the Commission on Appointments.

A manifestation signed by Comelec-EU national president Mark Christopher Ramirez stated that the more than 5,000 members of their group are expressing their “full and unequivocal support” to Pangarungan’s confirmation.

“In the short period of time that Chairman Pangarungan has been with us in the Commission, employees nationwide were witness to the Chairman’s ability to effectively ‘rally the troops’ and inspire us to work together to achieve our foremost goal of conducting a secure, accurate and free and fair elections,” Ramirez said.

He added that the successful conduct of the May 9 elections was one of the testaments of Pangarungan’s capable leadership. He emphasized that they “see hope and take comfort” in his dedication to strengthen and prioritize the needs of the employees.

“Chairman Pangarungan enjoys the full trust and confidence of the entire Comelec workforce. It is therefore our most fervent prayer that his appointment as chairman of the Commission on Elections be confirmed by the honorable congressional Commission on Appointments (CA),” Ramirez said.

In a television interview, Garcia said their appointments to the Comelec would expire by June 3 if these will not be confirmed by the CA. He explained that they only have the “ad interim appointment,” noting that they were appointed during the break of Congress.

“If by June 3, we are (still) not confirmed, then… our appointment expires. Therefore, it is up to the next administration to appoint who would be the next chair or the next commissioners,” Garcia said.

Garcia and Pangarungan, along with Commissioner Aimee Neri, were appointed to the commission during the congressional break. – Robertzon Ramirez

COMELEC

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