By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima today pushed for a review and possible re-codification of the country’s Omnibus Election Code (OEC) to make it reflective of the changing electoral landscape and emerging technologies.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms and peoples’ participation, filed Senate Bill 1796 or an Act which seeks the creation of a multisectoral Election Code Recodification Committee (ECRC) that would be tasked to prepare the draft of the new election code.
The senator pointed out that the 33-year-old OEC is already outdated and the country has long embraced automation of the election system during the national and local elections in May 2010.
The country also used the same technology again during the 2013 and 2016 polls.
“As a republic democratic country, election is the greatest means in which our citizens express their sovereignty. It goes without saying that the conduct of free and orderly election is essential to the very survival of our country,” de Lima said.
“It is, thus, important that we make sure that a reliable election system is in place to ensure that the will of the people is seasonably expressed and properly appreciated so as to avoid a government that serves without sufficient mandate,” she added.
De Lima noted that the present OEC was promulgated by virtue of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 sometime in 1985. At that time, elections of national and local officials were done manually and the number of voters was only around 30 million.
Through the years, de Lima said various election-related laws have been introduced, including the partylist system law, the initiative and referendum, and the absentee-voting law.
She said these laws are all new concepts on suffrage, which were introduced in the Constitution to make Philippine elections more inclusive and the country’s democracy more participative.
“We now live in the time when the technological advances gave us better ways to ascertain voter identities through biometrics,” de Lima pointed out.
“We are now also able to receive and tabulate votes nationally in ways much faster than ever through the automated system of elections,” she added.
Under the bill, the proposed ECRC shall be composed of individuals from various sectors and would be tasked to study, conduct consultations, and review the provisions of all the existing election laws and submit its report to Congress.
The proposed panel shall also be under the administrative supervision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and to be headed by a retired Comelec commissioner, and assisted by three experts in the field of election law or electoral processes, a representative nominated by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), a representative nominated by accredited election watchdog organizations, and four representatives to be nominated by Congress.
The senator said it is best if a multisectoral consultative committee of experts be convened to prepare the draft code which will be the basis for deliberations in Congress.
“This way, our legislature, and in turn, our country, will benefit from the expertise of the legal luminaries or technical experts on elections laws and processes,” she said.