March 4, 2013 – the NCCP today held a trainor’s training for voter’s education. The training was attended by 53 individuals from 23 churches, institutions and people’s organizations.
This electoral education was undertaken to cultivate an atmosphere of vigilance and responsibility among church people and consequently for voters to be more critical in their thinking. It is to help them to fully participate in the elections by discerning who among the candidates is worthy to hold office and serve the people.
Going out to vote in the May 2013 elections is an exercise to effect meaningful change through the selection of leaders who will carry out the will of the people, what is good for the people and who will promote the people’s rights and uphold their dignity. In the Biblico-theological reflection of Rev. Rex R. B. Reyes, Jr., NCCP General Secretary, he re-defined the use of power in terms of servant power. This type “neither seeks to dominate nor manipulate, is inclusive (that is, the marginalized must be part of decision-making), and that power comes with accountability”.
The training spoke of 2 major factors that the coming elections must be viewed against. First, one must look at the state of the Philippines – a state where a majority of the people are mired in poverty, a state where there are laws that are not beneficial to the people, and a current state where there is rampant violations of human rights and abuse of the environment.
Second (taking off from the first), one must look at the criteria for choosing candidates or party list groups. These candidates/party lists should work for social justice as translated to working towards a genuine land reform, push for just wages, delivery of basic social services such as education, health and housing and provide equal opportunities for women. They must also work towards a just and lasting peace as evidenced by pushing for peace talks and respect for human rights. The candidates or party lists must also be righteous and is for good governance. This means that they treat public office as a trust and not as a means to enrich one’s self or use the position to gain privileges. The candidates/party lists must put national sovereignty in their agenda – safeguarding the interest of the people as a nation. Lastly, they must work for the integrity of God’s creation.
Mr. Rick Bahague of Computer Professionals Union talked about the Automated Election System (AES). He shared major problems of the AES. One, the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) has not provided the source code or instruction program of the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Count) machines and hence, independent review of the source code cannot be made. Two, problems in transmission of election returns. Should there be weak connection signal and it happens that it is cut off, it cannot be determined that the incomplete data already transmitted is overwritten or not. Three, the COMELEC disabled the feature of the machine to distinguish between real and fake ballots for the reason that the wrong ink may be used by the printer that printed the ballots. Four, there is no digital signature to ensure that data is sealed by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI). In fact, teachers were instructed to answer “NO” if the machine asks if they want to digitally sign it. Five, there is no voter verification.
In sum, vulnerabilities and/or glitches in the past elections using the same PCOS machines are still there and that the Comelec is ill-prepared of the upcoming elections.
While many people may have become cynical about elections and views it as farce, the church must continue to radiate hope and hence must participate in a hopeful manner. At the end of the day, even if traditional politicians may have been legitimately or non-legitimately elected, church people through election awareness campaign have exposed a system that is corrupt and move people to action for genuine social transformation.