Comelec holds mock elections, tests hybrid system

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Volunteers filled up their ballots in the mock elections held at the Bacoor National High School in Cavite.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) tested on Saturday (June 27) its proposed hybrid election system at the Bacoor National High School in Cavite.

Almost 400 volunteers joined the mock election, which used the Precinct Automated Tallying System or PATaS.

When using PATaS, voting is done manually as volunteers have to write either the name or assigned number of their desired candidate.

Mock elections set-up

During the test run, the Comelec provided two precincts.

In the first classroom, participants had to indicate the assigned number of the candidates they chose, while voters stationed in the second room wrote the candidates' full names.

Once filled up, ballots were then dropped in a ballot box instead of feeding it to a Precinct Count Optical Scan or PCOS machine.

Even the counting of votes is carried out manually when employing PATaS — volunteer teachers would have to tally votes on blackboards.

Where automation comes in

The automation part only happens when the total vote count per precinct will be transmitted to main servers using laptops with broadband technology.

After the elections, these laptops will be donated to respective public schools.

Also, under the hybrid system, Closed Circuit Television cameras (CCTVs) will also be set up in each of the 300,000 precincts nationwide.

Through the CCTV system, the public will be urged to witness the manual counting of votes via the Internet.

Hybrid system better?

PATaS was proposed by former Commissioner Augusto Lagman, who is also an IT expert.

Lagman said the hybrid system will produce more credible results than the fully automated system.

"Ang problema ng ating sistema ngayon, yung PCOS, ay yung first step pa lang, hindi natin alam kung tama yung pagkakabilang," Lagman said.

[Translation: "The problem with our current system — PCOS —  is that right from the first step, we don't know if they (the votes) are being counted correctly."]

Using the hybrid system eliminates the possibility of a wholesale manipulation of results since votes are counted manually, Lagman explained.

Results produced by the fully automated system, on the other hand, can be easily manipulated in the CF cards, he added.

Moreover, the hybrid system will help people avoid what happened in 2013 Midterm Elections where 23% or 8.3 million votes were not transmitted by PCOS machines to the transparency server.

The former commissioner added his proposed system will also dramatically lessen the number of invalid or rejected votes.

In the 2013 automated elections, there were four million votes declared invalid compared to 2.1 million rejected votes in the 2010 manual elections.

The cost of elections

In terms of money, Lagman said the government will be able to save more money by employing the hybrid system, which is priced at about P4 to P5 billion. This means that the cost would be cut in half compared to the price of using the automated system — P9.5 to 14.5 billion.

Meanwhile, House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reform Chair Rep. Fredenil Castro also witnessed how the hybrid system works.

Castro, however, said that he would still choose to go for the automated system since it's more credible due to the absence of any human intervention.

He added that previous complaints of wholesale cheating in the automated system remain unproven before the Comelec or the Supreme Court.

We should not strive for cheaper election systems since these efforts — the automated system — is for the preservation of democracy, Castro said.

But according to Comelec Chair Andres Bautista, his office still has to hold deliberation on which kind of system will be used — whether manual, automated, or hybrid. Bautista confirmed that they will decide on the matter before July ends.

The commissioner also issued a reminder to the public: To register for biometrics in selected Comelec branches or designated malls as soon as possible.

So far, there are still more than four million voters unregistered nationwide. Bautista stressed that those unregistered can't vote without biometrics data.