Senate now studying ‘hybrid’ polls for 2022

“No-el” – the no-election plan pushed by former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, has now been set aside. Newly elected House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya said last Tuesday that the House of Representatives has allocated a total of P18 billion for the 2019 mid-term elections.

A new allocation of P6 billion, he said, has been included in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget proposed by the Duterte administration for 2019. This new amount will be added to the P12.4 billion already approved in the current 2018 budget for use by the Comelec in preparatory activities for the 2019 polls.

This should stop critics of the Duterte administration who have been claiming that the mid-term elections will be scrapped, Andaya said. Actually, it must be said, “no-el” became a serious possibility only when former Speaker Alvarez pushed for it so vigorously, claiming it was needed so Congress, as a Constituent Assembly, would have more time to draw up a new constitution.

This insistence may have cost him his speakership. There had been other reasons the members of the House wanted a new leader – they reportedly felt they were being ignored by the speaker and his small group of House leaders. But it was his insistence on no-election – a most nationally unpopular move – that moved the great majority of the House membership to vote for a new speaker  – Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In the Senate, the Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation has resumed its hearings on proposals for a “hybrid” election in view of questions raised against the credibility of fully automated elections. The proposed “hybrid” elections call for manual counting of votes in the precincts, combined with the electronic transmission of precinct results to provincial centers where they are electronically consolidated, then transmitted to the national centers – the Commission on Elections and Congress for the presidential and vice-presidential tallies.

The former system of manual elections was replaced in 2010 by automated elections to do away with the long period of waiting for final elections results, but cheating, which used to happen on precinct level, can now be done “wholesale” with automation, Senate President Sotto said. Sen. Cynthia Villar reflected the views of many other senators when she said she was in favor of “hybrid” elections. Candidates and their followers, she said, “can see results on the precinct level, so if there will be mistakes in transmission, there will be basis for the questions.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it may be too late to change to “hybrid” for the 2019 elections. More likely, he said, this will be adopted for the 2022 elections which will choose the next president and vice president along with 12 senators.

It is good to see that we have now moved on to improving our electoral system, which is at the core of of our democracy. “No-el” was an aberration that we have decisively disposed of in a manner that we hope will be a lesson to those who seek to tamper with this most basic right of our people.