Philippines: Choosing to Adopt Electronic Technologies
The transition to electronic technologies in the Philippines’ elections was the product of a long and arduous process that started in 1992, but was not fully implemented until 2010. It began when the Commission on Elections (COMELEC)60 adopted its strategic plan, which called for the modernization of the electoral process. Subsequent studies conducted by two international consultants gave further impetus to automate elections . The primary reason cited for moving to electronic technologies was to reduce the time for counting and tabulation. In previous elections, counting lasted as long as 18 hours in each polling station, and tabulation could take up to 40 days. This caused anxiety among the public and political contestants, increasing the risk of election-related violence and reducing confidence in the electoral process. Other reasons for the change were an intention to reduce fraud and errors in counting and canvassing results.
Within one year from the adoption of its strategic plan, the commission constituted a team to study available technologies, which at that time included optical mark recognition (OMR), punch card and direct recording electronic (DRE) systems. In 1995, the first election automation law was passed, authorizing the COMELEC to conduct a nationwide demonstration of an electronic election system and to pilot-test it in the March 1996 regional elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Following its perceived success, in 1977 Congress enacted the Election Modernization Act that mandated the COMELEC to use an automated election system (AES) for the process of voting, counting votes and canvassing/consolidating the results of the national and local elections.61
For various reasons ranging from late allotment of funds and time constraints, to the invalidation of contracts to supply the machines, the 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 national elections remained manual. The COMELEC, however, was able to automate the 2008 regional polls in the ARMM using DRE machines in some locations and OMR technology in others, for the purpose of determining the most suitable system for nationwide use in 2010.
60 The COMELEC has authority over virtually every aspect of the electoral process, including creating procedures and regulations; administering all election laws and regulations; regulating campaign finance; registering parties and civil society organizations that seek to participate in elections; and managing the resources of all State institutions assisting in conducting elections.
61 Republic Act 8436, Election Modernization Act of 1997.
Philippines: Building the Electronic Counting System