Chiz says planned hybrid poll system to revive ghost of ‘Hello, Garci’

(Photo from left) Commission on Election (Comelec) Commissioner Arthur D. Lim, Comelec Executive Director Jose M. Tolentino Jr., and Smartmatic Program Manager Marlon Garcia, discuss the condition of some 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines (right) during the poll body's "Walk Through" on Friday (March 20, 2015), held at the production area in Comelec Warehouse, Park Drive, Light Industrial Science Park 1, Barangay Diezmo, Cabuyao, Laguna. (MNS photo)

(Photo from left) Commission on Election (Comelec) Commissioner Arthur D. Lim, Comelec Executive Director Jose M. Tolentino Jr., and Smartmatic Program Manager Marlon Garcia, discuss the condition of some 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines (right) during the poll body’s “Walk Through” on Friday (March 20, 2015), held at the production area in Comelec Warehouse, Park Drive, Light Industrial Science Park 1, Barangay Diezmo, Cabuyao, Laguna. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Senator Francis Escudero on Tuesday said the plan of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use a combination of manual and computerized system in next year’s elections will only bring back memories of “Hello, Garci.”

Because of this, Escudero said the Comelec should ditch its plan to use a hybrid system and instead exert all efforts to ensure that the May 2016 national polls will still be fully automated.

According to Escudero, reverting to manual voting system next year would be a step backwards to a process marred by rampant cheating and other fraudulent election practices.

“It brings back memories of the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy, which had cast doubt on the results of the 2004 presidential elections,” Escudero said.

He said the proposal for hybrid polls “raises the chilling prospect of a wide-scale electoral cheating similar to what happened during the 2004 presidential elections.”

“Hello Garci” refers to the wiretapped conversation between then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the canvassing of presidential votes.

In that phone conversation, a woman believed to be Arroyo was heard asking “Garci” to make sure she would lead by one million votes over her closest rival, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. Escudero, who was then representative of Sorsogon province in Congress,was Poe’s campaign spokesperson.

Escudero said the Comelec was treading on dangerous ground with its proposal to use a hybrid election system as it would defeat the purpose of computerizing the elections.

“It’s a step backwards after having fully automated the elections previously. Returning to manual elections is a cause for serious concern due to its dangerous implications on the country’s electoral process,” he said.

He said the country could not afford to have another “Hello Garci” scandal, widely considered as the worst electoral fraud in Philippine history.

Escudero opposed the “hybrid” elections system called Precinct Automated Tally System (PATaS), which would combine manual and automated processes.

The Comelec already tested the hybrid system when it conducted a mock poll on June 27 at the Bacoor National High School in Cavite province.

The senator said he would look into the spending plan of the agency for the automated polls if only to ensure a clean, orderly and credible 2016 elections. For 2015, the Comelec received a total of P16.8 billion budget. (MNS)

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