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UNIVERSITY OF SAN JOSE – RECOLETOS

COLLEGE OF LAW

Cebu City, 6000 Cebu

A Report on The Salient Features of The Automated Election Law of the Philippines

Passed by:

ECARMA, Kim D.

LLB – 2

Passed to:

Atty. Bacatan

Administrative Law

(February 23, 2019)


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The right of suffrage is one of the salient tenets of the kind of system of government we
are in which is a democracy. It is the right of the people (eligible voters) to choose their officials
as their representatives, for a definite and fixed period, to whom they entrust the exercise of the
powers of government. Given this, it is important that election results be safeguarded to secure
only the true will of the people. Republic Act (RA) 8436 as amended by RA 9369 states as the
State’s policy on election process,

"SECTION 1.Declation of Policy. - It is policy of the State to ensure free,


orderly, honest, peaceful, credible and informed elections, plebiscites, referenda,
recall and other similar electoral exercises by improving on the election process
and adopting systems, which shall involved the use of an automated election
system that will ensure the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot and all election,
consolidation and transmission documents on order that the process shall be
transparent and credible and that the results shall be fast, accurate and reflective
of the genuine will of the people.

"The State recognizes the mandate and authority of the Commission to


prescribe adoption and use of the most suitable technology of demonstrated
capability taking into account the situation prevailing in the area and the funds
available for the purpose."

Due to the limitations of the manual system of elections in the past which have not fully
served said policy’s end, the automated election system (AES) has been authorized by law.
Republic Act (RA) 8436 entitled, "An Act Authorizing The Commission on Elections To Use An
Automated Election System in The May 11, 1998 National Or Local Elections And in
Subsequent National And Local Electoral Exercises, To Encourage Transparency, Credibility,
Fairness And Accuracy of Elections, Amending for The Purpose Batas Pampansa Blg. 881, As
Amemded, Republic Act No. 7166 And Other Related Elections Laws, Providing Funds
Therefor And for Other Purposes,” also known in short as the “Poll Automation Law,” was
passed in December 1997, and amended by RA 9369 in 2007. The Commission on Elections
(Comelec) started implementing it in the 2010 elections and then in 2013 and 2016.

The old versus the new system of election

The old ballot had blanks where the voter can write down the names of his selected
candidates. In case one wants to amend his entry, he can simply write a new name over the
scratched out one, but this cannot be done in the new system.

In this system, the ballots could be easily interchanged throughout all precincts in the
country, since it contained blank spaces. For instance, the ballot used in a precinct in Manila can
also be used in a precinct in Bacolod. In the new system, however, the ballots are precinct-
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specific; the ballots with the printed names of the candidates cannot be used in another district,
province and/or city. The ballots are barcoded down to the precinct-level, and the PCOS machine
will read the barcode and know if the ballot being inserted belongs to its clustered polling
precinct. The PCOS will reject by spitting out a ballot if it determines that such belongs to
another clustered polling precinct.

Lastly, the old ballot could be duplicated for dubious use. In the new ballot, ultraviolet
ink will be used to serve as an invisible security mark. Other security features have also been
incorporated into the new ballot. Unlike the old ballot, one cannot erase, replace, scratch out
and/or add names in the new ballot. There will only be one ballot printed for every voter and
each voter will have only a single chance to fill it up to reflect his will. One cannot go back to the
Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and ask for a new ballot to amend one’s shaded candidate
name.

The implementation

It started in 2010 that voters had to shade an oval preceding the candidate’s name on
paper ballots, and have the latter registered with an optical mark recognition (OMR) machine.
The machine will then print a voting receipt, and collect the vote count electronically to prepare
transmission to the Municipal Board of Canvassers. However, there were massive problems with
said machines during the 2010 and 2013 elections, which led the Commission on Elections
leased new OMR machines from Smartmatic, a London-based manufacturing company; the old
ones would be repaired and improved to be used for the 2019 elections.

The salient features

For the salient features of the automated election system, it would be more informative to
lay out the subject provisions of both RA 8436 as originally promulgated in 1997, and its
amending law RA 9369 which was promulgated in 2007.

RA 8436 formerly provided the following features of the automated election system:

Section 7. Features of the system. - The System shall utilize appropriate technology for
voting, and electronic devices for counting of votes and canvassing of results. For this
purpose, the Commission shall acquire automated counting machines, computer
equipment, devices and materials and adopt new forms and printing materials.

The System shall contain the following features: (a) use of appropriate ballots, (b) stand-
alone machine which can count votes and an automated system which can consolidate
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the results immediately, (c) with provisions for audit trails, (d) minimum human
intervention, and (e) adequate safeguard/security measures.

In addition, the System shall as far as practicable have the following features:

1. It must be user-friendly and need not require computer-literate operators;

2. The machine security must be built-in and multi-layer existent on hardware and
software with minimum human intervention using latest technology like encrypted coding
system;

3. The security key control must be embedded inside the machine sealed against human
intervention;

4. The Optical Mark Reader (OMR) must have a built-in printer for numbering the
counted ballots and also for printing the individual precinct number on the counted
ballots;

5. The ballot paper for the OMR counting machine must be of the quality that passed the
international standard like ISO-1831, JIS-X- 9004 or its equivalent for optical character
recognition;

6. The ballot feeder must be automatic;

7. The machine must be able to count from 100 to 150 ballots per minute;

8. The counting machine must be able to detect fake or counterfeit ballots and must have
a fake ballot rejector;

9. The counting machine must be able to detect and reject previously counted ballots to
prevent duplication;

10. The counting machine must have the capability to recognize the ballot's individual
precinct and city or municipality before counting or consolidating the votes;

11. The System must have a printer that has the capacity to print in one stroke or
operation seven (7) copies (original plus six (6) copies) of the consolidated reports on
carbonless paper;
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12. The printer must have at least 128 kilobytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) to
facilitate the expeditious processing of the printing of the consolidated reports;

13. The machine must have a built-in floppy disk drive in order to save the processed
data on a diskette;

14. The machine must also have a built-in hard disk to store the counted and
consolidated data for future printout and verification;

15. The machine must be temperature-resistant and rust-proof;

16. The optical lens of the OMR must have a self-cleaning device;

17. The machine must not be capable of being connected to external computer
peripherals for the process of vote consolidation;

18. The machine must have an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS);

19. The machine must be accompanied with operating manuals that will guide the
personnel of the Commission the proper use and maintenance of the machine;

20. It must be so designed and built that add-ons may immediately be incorporated into
the System at minimum expense;

21. It must provide the shortest time needed to complete the counting of votes and
canvassing of the results of the election;

22. The machine must be able to generate consolidated reports like the election return,
statement of votes and certificate of canvass at different levels; and

23. The accuracy of the count must be guaranteed, the margin of error must be disclosed
and backed by warranty under such terms and conditions as may be determined by the
Commission.

In the procurement of this system, the Commission shall adopt an equitable system of
deductions or demerits for deviations or deficiencies in meeting all the above stated
features and standards.

For this purpose, the Commission shall create an Advisory Council to be composed of
technical experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the
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Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP), the University of the


Philippines (UP), and two (2) representatives from the private sector recommended by
the Philippine Computer Society (PCS).

The Council may avail itself of the expertise and services of resource persons of known
competence and probity.

The Commission in collaboration with the DOST shall establish an independent


Technical Ad Hoc Evaluation Committee, herein known as the Committee, composed of a
representative each from the Senate, House of Representatives, DOST and COMELEC.
The Committee shall certify that the System is operating properly and accurately and that
the machines have a demonstrable capacity to distinguish between genuine and spurious
ballots.
The Committee shall ensure that the testing procedure shall be unbiased and effective in
checking the worthiness of the System. Toward this end, the Committee shall design and
implement a reliability test procedure or a system stress test.

Nevertheless, the lawmakers resolved to amend said provision to read as follows:

SEC.6. Minimum System Capabilities. - "The automated election system must at least
have the following functional capabilities:

(a) Adequate security against unauthorized access;

(b) Accuracy in recording and reading of votes as well as in the tabulation,


consolidation/canvassing, electronic transmission, and storage of results;

(c) Error recovery in case of non-catastrophic failure of device;

(d) System integrity which ensures physical stability and functioning of the vote recording
and counting process;

(e) Provision for voter verified paper audit trail;

(f) System auditability which provides supporting documentation for verifying the
correctness of reported election results;

(g) An election management system for preparing ballots and programs for use in the
casting and counting of votes and to consolidate, report and display election result in the
shortest time possible;

(h) Accessibility to illiterates and disable voters;

(i) Vote tabulating program for election, referendum or plebiscite;


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(j) Accurate ballot counters;

(k) Data retention provision;

(l) Provide for the safekeeping, storing and archiving of physical or paper resource used
in the election process;

(m) Utilize or generate official ballots as herein defined;

(n) Provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has
registered his choice; and

(o) Configure access control for sensitive system data and function.

"In the procurement of this system, the Commission shall develop and adopt an
evaluation system to ascertain that the above minimum system capabilities are met. This
evaluation system shall be developed with the assistance of an advisory council."

Viewpoints on the advantages and disadvantages of the AES

One cannot certainly decipher the efficacy of a newly-introduced system of election due
to the many factors which may affect the course of the whole election process despite the
idealism of the State’s policy for the law authorizing the automated election system. Factors
which are basically linked to inevitable human discretion among the committees and
safeguarding measures of the system itself, whether in the technological makeup of the voting
machines or the process of voting, counting and canvassing, as provided by law, usually pave for
marginal errors on the probability that even an automated election system could not fully solve
the gaps in our electoral culture.

Several analysts saw the need to share the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the
AES as have been determined from implementation. Gus Lagman, an political analyst shares his
views on the AES after its implementation during the 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections.
Specifically he framed his discussion around the different automated elections technologies, as
he states in an entry on Manila Times in October 2016:

Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) System


This technology is also referred to as the “touch-screen” system. The voter
submits his choices from among the candidates whose names (and often times, also
photographs) appear on a computer monitor. A printed output indicating his choices,
may or may not be part of the machine’s features. At the end of the voting period, the
system will automatically count the votes garnered by each candidate. It will also print
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the results of the counting and electronically-transmit such results to the City/Municipal
Board of Canvassers (CMBOC).

Advantages:
• All four stages of the election process (voting, counting, transmission, and canvassing)
are automated

• Instantaneous tally of votes at the precinct level

• Theoretically, less work for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI)

• No ballot box snatching, as the results are transmitted electronically

Disadvantages:
• Not transparent; voters may not trust the result of counting that they did not see

• Manipulation of results by insider technical people is easy to execute

• Because voting is done in front of the machine, it will therefore require 5-6 units per
precinct (total of approximately 500-600,000 units, assuming 100,000 precincts)

• Logistics will be a nightmare (500,000 units to be delivered to 100,000 locations)

• Cost prohibitive, estimated at P50 billion

BEI and voter training staggering


• Number of technical support people may run in the hundreds of thousands

• Storage of machines after each election will be a major concern – worry about cost and
availability of warehouse

Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) System


Voters make their choices through pre-printed ballots, simply by shading the spaces
opposite the names of the candidates. A printed output indicating his choices, may or may
not be part of the machine’s features. The ballots are fed into the OMR unit by the voters,
one at a time. At the end of the voting period, the system will automatically count the
votes garnered by each candidate. It will also print the results of the counting and
electronically-transmit such results to the CMBOC.
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• Instantaneous tally of votes at the precinct level

• Since ballots are pre-printed, voters simply mark choices Advantages:; no need to write
names

• Less work for the BEI

• Cost less than DRE (approximately, P10 billion)

• BEI and voter training minimal, relative to DRE

• No ballot box snatching, as the results are transmitted electronically

Disadvantages:
• Not transparent; voters may not trust the result of counting that they did not see

• Manipulation of results by insider technical people is easy to execute

• Because of the “percentage shading threshold,” disenfranchisement becomes a real


and unfortunate issue (example, a 25% threshold means that if an oval is shaded less
than 25%, the vote will not be counted)

• The machine is sensitive to external marks and smudges

• Difficult to fairly resolve over-marked ballots

• Easy to illegally shade ovals in under-marked ballots

• Storage of machines after each election will be a major concern, though not as much as
with DREs

Hybrid System
Voters signify their choices by writing down the names of the candidates they want to
vote for, in ordinary ballots. After the voting period, the ballots are counted manually. A
step to convert the results into machine-readable form is executed, followed by the
printing of the additional copies of the Election Returns, and the electronic transmission
of the ERs to the CMBOC. Henceforth, the automated canvassing will proceed similarly
as in the DRE and OMR systems.

Advantages:
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• All steps of the election process are transparent to the voting public; precinct-tallying is
done under the watchful eyes of the voters

• Accuracy of the counting is high – after all, manual counts are the basis of accuracy

• Cost is much less than DRE and OMR (approximately P4 billion); even the ballots will
cost much less

• No BEI and voter training necessary

• Vulnerability to cheating is very low (only retail cheating, if at all)

• Software will use open source – can be reviewed by anybody interested

• Since only PCs and servers will be used, they can be purchased in any big city;
therefore, less logistics concerns

• No warehousing necessary as machines can be donated to schools after each election; a


new set will be purchased every three years

• No ballot box snatching, as the results are transmitted electronically

Disadvantages:
• Precinct-tallying will be 5-8 hours longer than DRE or OMR

• May need an encoder in every precinct

Today there have been several studies, although not necessarily binding statements or
conclusions, with regard to how significant the difference the automated election system has
actually made towards the efficiency of the electoral process, although most of these studies have
shown that with its advent, great development in the aspect of voting participation has been
stimulated.