Thursday, December 28, 2006

‘More harm than good in hi-tech polls’

By Rio N. Araja - Manila Standard Today

AN ELECTION lawyer yesterday urged the House of Representatives to junk a bill seeking to automate the forthcoming elections, saying the measure would do more harm than good to the Commission on Elections.

Romulo Macalintal also appealed to Senator Richard Gordon to restrain from pushing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo into signing the law. “Unless the provision calling for a partial poll automation in 2007 is recalled or scrapped by Congress, Senator Richard Gordon should not insist that the President sign into law the alleged Congress-approved legislation seeking to automate our country’s election system.”

Earlier, Macalintal, Pete Quirino Quadra and Sixto Brilantes backed the Comelec stand for a postponement of the poll automation in 12 pilot areas in the May 2007 elections due to lack of time.

Macalintal said Gordon must stop accusing the President of being “insincere” if she would not sign the proposed bill.

“On the contrary, the President would do a great service to the nation and to our political system if she does not sign the said proposed legislation unless the provision calling for a partial poll automation is set aside or recalled since it is very impractical to implement the same in 2007”, he said.

Even if the President signs the proposed legislation on Jan. 1, it could only be effective after 15 days from its publication as provided in its effectivity clause.

“If it is published on Jan. 2, then it becomes effective Jan. 17. But while it is already effective, it cannot be implemented without Comelec’s implementing rules and regulations. And if Comelec finished its IRRs say on Jan. 20, the same has to be published in two newspapers of general circulation to take effect only after seven days from such publication, or on Jan. 27. This would greatly affect, if not cause confusion, the filing of certificates of candidacy [COCs] for senators and local elective officials.”

He said the deadline for filing the certificates of candidacy for senators and the party-lists is on Feb. 12, those seeking congressional and local seats must file on March 29.

He said with very little time, Comelec has yet to amend its rules on the filing of the certificates of candidacy considering that the rules were adopted for manual election only.

For purposes of automated election, the certificates of candidacy must be filed earlier since under the proposed legislation, the positions and full names and nicknames of the candidates shall be printed on the ballots, according to Macalintal.

He said the positions are printed without the names of the candidates on the ballots for the manual elections.

“Thus, even on the issue of mere filing of the COCs for senator and affected local elective officials, Comelec would surely run out of time to amend its rules on the filing of COCs and advise political parties and candidates of any change of deadline in filing the same,” he raised.

He also said several provisions of the proposed automated election law are impractical.

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