Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Manila Standard editorial: Stay the course

Manila Standard

CRITICS of the government’s poll automation efforts had reason to rejoice this week, after testing showed that the vote-counting machines did not work as advertised.

In fact, major malfunctions were reported during test runs in Makati, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Pateros as well as the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro.

The problem, it turns out, is that the software in the vote-tallying programs were flawed and need to be replaced. The solution – to retrieve the memory cards from 76,300 voting machines, reconfigure them, and send them back – is a huge logistical challenge, with only five days remaining to Election Day.

The government’s technology partner, Smartmatic International Corp., acknowledges this, but says it can still be done in time for May 10.

In the meantime, critics of the automation project are clucking their tongues and saying “We told you so” and demanding a return to manual counting.

Worse, the President’s election lawyer is urging the Commission on Elections to postpone the elections, a suggestion that is bound to trigger another round of paranoid speculation about how this is all a plot to keep the President in power after her term expires on June 30, and how the people would rise up in revolt if their will is thwarted.

We say enough is enough. Now is not the time for doomsday scenarios and conspiracy theories.

If there is a technical problem, let us all work to make sure it is solved before May 10. Vigilance is key in exposing these glitches, and keeping the elections honest and credible, but there is nothing to be gained from returning to a manual system.

The suggestion that the elections be postponed is even more ludicrous, and we were relieved that the Palace has disavowed that view.

The best option, despite the current difficulties, is to stay the course and hold the elections as scheduled, and to have the votes counted in a fast and credible way that only a well-audited automated system can do.

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