File photo shows people vote at a polling precinct in Manila on May 13, 2019.
AFP/Ted Aljibe, File photo
Commentary: Trust and confidence in the 2019 elections
Claudette Guevara (Philstar.com) - August 17, 2019 - 2:00pm

Trust and confidence in the electoral process continue to increase following the success of the 2019 midterm elections. 

The latest Pulse Asia survey reported that 87 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the automated polling system through the Vote Counting Machines (VCM)—a 4% increase from the 2016 election figures. Visayas and Mindanao recorded the highest satisfaction, at 91% and 85% respectively. 

According to Pulse Asia, their findings show that people’s preference for automation is highly influenced by the faster generation of results. 

Despite the seven-hour glitch in the server, 91% would still want to continue the use of automated voting for future elections, with Visayas the highest at 97% followed by Luzon at 90% and Mindanao and NCR at 89%. 

The glitch issue has also been addressed by the separate reports of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE). 

PPCRV, which was responsible for the unofficial tally, reported that they received and verified 60,139 electronic and manual return, a 99.995% match rate. It also reported that late transmissions have decreased overall by 18.65% nationwide compared to previous elections.

LENTE, on the other hand, successfully randomly audited 711 precincts and came out with a 99.9953% accuracy rate. These reports mean the 84% trust rating that the Pulse Asia survey found is warranted. 

Moreover, the public also commended the ease of using the VCM machine and the orderliness of the voting, both at 94%. Majority also agreed that no cheating, violence and vote buying occurred in their respective precinct or area. 

Issues that were reported include the long queue, the failure of SD cards, and the breakdown of VCMs, all minor setbacks that had negligible impact on the overall result of the midterm election. 

Of the 6% who experienced VCM breakdowns, majority still cast their votes, with 57% giving their ballot to the Board of Elections Inspectors and another 40% returning to feed their ballot to the machine again. 

Comelec has an ongoing investigation to address the malfunction of the SD cards and some VCMs. Dr. William Yu, co-IT director and trustee of the PPCRV, said the long lines were inevitable due to the increased number of registered voters. 
In 2016, a clustered precinct had 577 voters on average. This went up to 727 in 2019, with a maximum size of 1,000 voters per cluster. However, Yu said the 15 to 30 minute-waiting time in the recent elections is still a far cry from the voting prior to automation, which took almost two hours. Truly, this indicates the improvement in the voting process due to automation. 

Lawyer Ona Caritos of LENTE applauded the results of the survey. As they try to push accountability, transparency and inclusivity, they factor in the perspectives and feelings of the people. It reflects well on the elections. 

Caritos called for legislators to use the study as they discuss which system to use for the 2022 presidential elections. She highlighted the increase of vote buying along with automated elections, and thus, there’s a need to look at the fraud occurring outside the VCMs. 

With the public’s increasingly positive perception of the electoral system and with the responsiveness of the electoral body and the electoral watchdogs, democracy remains steadfast. The credibility of the elections translates to a legitimacy in the government. 

Automation has truly ensured transparency in the elections and has brought the power to the people. With the newly elected officials, the country will be steered towards the right direction where the people continue to enjoy and exercise their rights, and opportunities for the growth and security of each individual and the country remain a priority. 

The reduction in electoral cheating and violence can be traced to the introduction of automated elections and is reflected in the people’s trust in the process. 

Democracy Watch Philippines continues to advocate for the integrity and credibility of the elections. They continue to stand by the voice of the people and their trust in the electoral process. 

The automation of the elections has improved and addressed the problem of wholesale election cheating. With the results of the 2019 midterm election, we believe that the sustained use of the automated electoral system for the 2022 elections will continue to ensure this.

Claudette Guevara is deputy executive director for programs of think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, a partner of Philstar.com.

ELECTION 2019
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