Going back to the dark ages?
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2019 - 12:00am

During a recent interview with the press, former president, former Manila mayor, and now citizen Joseph Estrada addressed the allegations of newly elected Manila Mayor Isko Moreno about the way the ex-mayor supposedly drove the city into debt and bankruptcy.

Although I won’t weigh in on Estrada’s rebuttal, there is a particular portion of the interview that I found quite interesting.

When GMA News reporter Susan Enriquez asked him whether he would be willing to run for mayor again, he said that he would only do so if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reverts to a manual election.

I am the first to admit that I am not the most tech-savvy person. Nevertheless, I recognize and appreciate the conveniences of technology, and in the case of elections, the security and expediency it brings. Honestly, the only logical reason I could think of why anyone chooses to go back to manual systems is if manual elections offered some other “conveniences” for the electorate. 

I’ve been through quite a number of elections in my lifetime, and I can attest that automated elections have literally saved lives. I remember back in the day when manual elections were the norm. Our brave teachers, nuns, priests, and other volunteers would guard ballots and face goons at gunpoint. I’ve lost count of the many poll watchers I’ve interviewed over the years who have had close calls with death – and this is not even counting the ones who did not survive their encounters.

Now, with automated elections, such violence against poll watchers have become a thing of the past – a relic of a dark and insidious age.

When news broke out over the past months about certain politicians advocating manual or “hybrid” elections, I once again feared for the lives of these people. They will once again have to defend ballots with their lives.

My fears were allayed when I spoke with my friends from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) press corps about the recently concluded Automated Election Systems (AES) Tech Fair at the DICT offices in Diliman. At the very least, the DICT is working hard to find the best and most applicable solutions to the Philippines.

Our current technology provider Smartmatic was also present to showcase their latest tech. My press corps friends were especially impressed with the touchscreen voting interface they demonstrated.

Apparently, it was broached to the Comelec for use in the 2016 National Elections, but cost and time constraints ultimately led to using paper ballots.

The other companies that presented also highlighted the use of blockchain technology, which also has been reportedly used in Norway by Smartmatic. Looking forward, it is heartening to know that there are many options available for Filipinos.

Despite the many choices, though, my friends still believe that what we currently have is the best that our government can afford. Everything else – especially those that still rely on a human element – is a downgrade.

As a political exercise, of course, it doesn’t matter who the provider is. It will always be politicized. Whatever issues that our current provider is facing will be also the same ones hurled at future providers.

Currently, we actually have one of the most secure and accurate electoral systems in Asia. There is always room for improvement, but there is no room for going back to the dark ages.

* * *

Talking about communication technology, there’s a new handbook for the existential problem of our time – climate change.

Launched at the 27th Asian Media Information and Communication (AMIC) conference at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand last month, Science Writing and Climate Change is a “book for our times,” says lead author Professor Crispin Maslog. The book, he said, has been published as a boost for journalists working the Asia-Pacific region.

Dr. Maslog, chair of the Manila-based AMIC, said at the launch that a book of this kind had been needed by journalists for years. “Climate change is upon us and we need to educate people about this urgent problem now,” he said.

“What former US Vice-President Al Gore described as an ‘inconvenient truth’ years ago is now an ‘incontrovertible fact.’”

Many of the chapters have been adapted from Maslog’s regular science and development columns in the Global SciDev.net website. Co-authors of the 104-page book are SciDev.net regional editor for the Asia-Pacific Joel Adriano and New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie.  

In his introductory preface “Climate Change 101”, Maslog writes: “Halfway into this year, 2019, some 1009 tornadoes have ripped through the United States with unusual violence – about double the average number in previous years.

“In the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the typhoons have become more frequent, violent and destructive.

“We are reminded of 2013 when the category 5 Superstorm Haiyan (Yolanda) smashed into Central Philippines and flattened the city of Tacloban and nearby cities of Leyte and Samar, killing some 10,000 people and causing property damage in the billions of dollars. It was the strongest typhoon to hit land at 350 kph.”

Part one of the book explains the role of science in development and the science education of the population in the Asia-Pacific region. It includes news writing tips for science reporters. Part two offers sample writing from effective science stories.

According to Maslog, the book will be “useful for science writing teachers in schools and trainers in non-formal science journalism training programs.”

The book is a co-publication with SciDev.net and Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre support. It is available in the Philippines through AMIC at Solidarity Bookstore and New Day Publishers or from the author at cmaslog@hotmail.com.

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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