House Deputy Speaker Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia has sought the passage of a bill seeking to authorize the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use a complementary smartphone voting application system for the national and local electoral exercises.
He said the government should keep improving the election process and adopt systems, including the use of a smartphone application, that would ensure the secrecy and sanctity of the ballots as well as all election, consolidation, and transmission documents.
“While electronic voting systems have not always been perfect, it is more critical in a democracy to bridge the gap innovator involvement, especially in the face of pandemics such as COVID-19 where physical participation is discouraged, especially for the elderly and the immunologically vulnerable,” he said.
Garcia is the principal author of House Bill No. 7929 or the proposed “Smartphone Voting Act of 2020” that seeks to ensure that all available state-of-the-art and well-researched methodologies and technologies are used in harmony to enable the Filipino people to fully express their democratic will.
“This bill seeks to enable the full expression of the electoral process by allowing citizens to opt in and vote using a smartphone application for future electoral exercises. The system will complement the current arrangements available to the Commission on Elections and the voting public,” he said.
Citing a German statistics company, Statista, he noted that the Philippines had around 36.35 million smartphone users as of Sept. 2019,
which is a little more than one smartphone for every three Filipinos.
The House leader also observed that the social media penetration among Filipinos is at 99 percent of Internet users and Filipinos spend most time on social media at four hours and 12 minutes per day.
“In contrast, however, voter turnout show that participation in elections has not been widespread,” he said, citing the turnout in 2007 polls is 73.10 percent; 74.99 percent in 2010; 77.31 percent in 2013; 81.95 percent in 2016; and 75.90 percent in 2019.
“One in four Filipinos has not been able to exercise their right to vote,” Garcia said.
House Bill No. 7929 authorizes and mandates the Comelec to use on an opt-in basis for voters a Smartphone Voting Application System for future electoral exercises.
Under the bill, the poll body is authorized to procure by purchase, lease, or otherwise any supplies, software, licenses, applications, equipment, materials, and other services needed for the holding of electoral exercises.
The bill provides the creation of an Advisory Council, which shall be convened not later than two months after the effectivity of the proposed Act. It will be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Among the functions of the Council are: Recommend the most appropriate, secure, applicable, and cost-effective software, hardware, infrastructure services, and technologies to be applied for the use of Filipino voters; participate as non-voting members of the Bids and Awards Committee in the conduct of the bidding process for anything deemed necessary for the System; provide advice and or assistance in the risk management of the System especially when a contingency or disaster situation arises; and prepare and submit a written report to the Comelec and the Congressional Oversight Committee regarding the use and as a technical evaluation of the System.
The bill mandates the Comelec not later than six months before the actual use of the System to undertake a widespread voter information and education program through mass media such as the Internet, newsprint, radio, and television as well as through seminars, symposia, fora, and other non-traditional means to educate the public and fully inform the electorate about the System.