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Editorial

Speedy, honest vote count

/ 04:40 AM May 09, 2022

After the closing of voting hours today, initial results of the historic Philippine elections conducted during a pandemic would be trickling in from more than 106,000 clustered precincts across the country.

According to projections by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), winners at the municipal level such as mayors, vice mayors, and councilors could be proclaimed tonight, followed by provincial and congressional winners by noon on Tuesday.

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Comelec Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said the new senators can be proclaimed in three to four days, or as early as May 15. The Comelec will convene later today as the national board of canvassers to count and proclaim the 12 new senators and winning party-list groups.

On May 23, the Senate and the House of Representatives will then convene to hold the official canvass for president and vice president. Proclamation of the winning candidates for these positions will most likely be by the first week of June, Garcia said.

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But the public won’t have to hold their breath that long — the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), which has the fourth copy of the election returns, will be sharing unofficial results as they are transmitted from more than 97,000 vote-counting machines to the Comelec transparency server. Various media organizations accredited to access the media server will be able to inform the public about the results in real-time.

“Of course, even before that, even after two or three days after voting, partial unofficial results will be coming out from the citizens’ arm, media because they have access to our transparency server,” Garcia said. He also said the winning presidential and vice presidential bets will already be known by the seventh day based on partial and unofficial results.

This is well and good since the country adopted the automated election system back in 1998, ending the era of manual elections that proved to be long, tedious, and highly susceptible to fraud and manipulation with ballot boxes being snatched and election returns tampered with.

Yet, automated elections are not immune to problems and machinations as the 2004 “Hello Garci’’ scandal and glitches in the electronic transmission of results of the 2019 midterm elections have shown us.

The Comelec has assured that the seven-hour glitch in 2019, which roused speculations of fraud when no results were released from the commission’s transparency server, would be a thing of the past.

After conducting a “stress test’’ on the VCMs and the transparency server, Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo assured that the capacity of the server is enough to prevent a repeat of the “bottleneck’’ that led to the interruption of counting three years ago. They have also changed the terms of reference for the transmission of results to the media server. “So, we are confident that (with the) hardware component, the 2019 incident won’t happen again,” said Cosquejo.

To further promote transparency of the process, the Comelec has disclosed the locations of its data centers: Parañaque City, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Libis in Quezon City, and the PPCRV media server at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.

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For a country where election losers often resort to protracted protests, such as in the 2016 vice presidential race, the importance of transparent, credible results cannot be overemphasized. On it depends public acceptance of the electoral mandate which in turn is needed to achieve political stability and focus on governance.

The high-stakes campaigns mounted by the leading contenders for the presidency, ousted dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and opposition leader Vice President Leni Robredo, have put the country on edge.

The next few days are crucial for securing a mandate for the victor. It is important that the whole process of vote counting and transmission of results be done expeditiously and with utmost transparency and integrity.

The Comelec deserves public support as well as scrutiny in fulfilling its job.

The Senate and the House, as the national board of canvassers for the top two races, should also uphold the integrity of the count as there is no room for disparities and manipulations.

The PPCRV, with thousands of volunteers, has the crucial role of conducting an independent quick count and verification that will be disseminated by media organizations to keep the public up to speed on the election results.

All these layers are meant to protect the will expressed by the people through the ballot.

Having participated in this most crucial election, the Filipino people must still exercise the same heightened vigilance and active participation until the end of this process to ensure that all the institutions will faithfully count EVERY vote.

Only when that task is delivered can the country heal from the wounds inflicted in this highly-divisive election and move on to face the daunting problems of our time.

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, Comelec, Editorial, elections 2022
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