Decision Making in the Philippines: Advisory Body to the Election Commission
During the Philippines’ transition to electronic counting in 2010, an advisory council was created to assist the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). While the formation and operation of this council came with several challenges, it provides an example of one type of mechanism that can help promote transparency and inclusiveness of decision-making processes on whether and how to adopt voting and/or counting technologies.
Mandated by the national legislature of the Philippines, the COMELEC Advisory Council (CAC) consisted of nine members from government, academia, the IT community and civil society. It provided recommendations and oversight to the COMELEC during all stages of the transition to e-counting technologies, including the following:
- Recommending the most appropriate, secure and cost-effective technology
- Observing and participating as nonvoting members of the Special Bids and Awards Committee, which was established to conduct the bidding and vendor selection process
- Participating as nonvoting members of the steering committee that implemented the new system
- Planning and testing the technology
- Identifying potential problems or inadequacies with the system
- Designing plans for the bidding process and the use and eventual disposal of the new system
- Conducting an evaluation of the new system after the election
The CAC’s ability to provide guidance on key decisions during the 2010 elections was cited by many as an important factor in building trust and confidence during the transition from manual to electronic counting. The CAC also issued a number of recommendations for future elections in the Philippines, addressing issues such as the procurement process, timing, implementation, capacity building, legislation and technical aspects of automated elections.
While the creation of the CAC helped promote inclusiveness and transparency, it also came with challenges. The COMELEC decided to exclude CAC members with IT expertise from two key aspects of the transition process: (1) the design and selection of technology and (2) the procurement process. IT experts’ participation was seen by the COMELEC as a potential conflict of interest if they were to become bidders. However, several civil society groups and IT experts criticized the decision to exclude those with IT expertise, noting that the selection of technology was then conducted without expert input from the IT community.