EDITORIAL- The vote kicks off

The Philippine Star

Races for top elective posts in this country have been won by a margin of about half a million votes. For local races, victory margins can be as narrow as a few thousand and every vote counts. So the votes of 737,759 Filipinos working overseas who registered for absentee voting, although less than a tenth of the total number of OFWs, cannot be dismissed as insignificant.

The Commission on Elections is hoping that at least 60 percent of those who registered will actually come out and cast their ballots as the absentee voting kicks off today. This hope can be realized if the government facilitates access to Philippine diplomatic missions where absentee voting facilities have been set up.

At the same time, every effort must be made to ensure that the absentee voting will not be marred by technical glitches and accusations of anomalies. The conduct of the absentee vote will give an indication of the way the midterm elections on May 13 will be carried out.

It will be only the second time that nationwide elections will be fully automated. Some quarters have expressed concern about potential glitches in the precinct count optical scan machines and their source code. Notably, however, there has been no major public outcry against the use of the same PCOS machines that were utilized in the 2010 general elections. Remembering the speedy announcement of election results in 2010, particularly for the presidential race, Filipinos appear to be more comfortable with poll automation and are willing to risk some glitches on election day.

All election glitches must be kept to a minimum, starting with the absentee vote. This is the first nationwide electoral exercise under President Aquino’s watch. His government must give the Comelec all the support that it needs to make the May 13 vote a model for electoral exercises in this country. Free elections are the manifestations of people power in a democracy, and the voice of the people must be heard clearly. 


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