Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Special polls in Marawi conclude the 2018 Barangay and SK Elections
The Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) (village and youth council) Elections (BSKE) in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur were held on September 22, and described as generally peaceful with no report of fatalities. NAMFREL volunteers who were at the voting centers to observe the process reported a smooth conduct of the polls, with some incidence of altercations between supporters of local candidates. However, the observers added that said incidents were immediately resolved by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and security forces. While some polling stations opened with a slight delay, observers noted that election administrators and security forces were well-prepared. The COMELEC reported that by early morning of the following day, all winners had been proclaimed.

The BSKE in Marawi was delayed due to the destruction of parts of the city and displacement of its residents during a five-month-long conflict between government forces and ISIL-affiliated groups in 2017. The rest of the country voted in the BSKE on May 14, 2018. 

The synchronized BSKE had been originally scheduled for October 31, 2016, but were postponed twice: first to October 23, 2017, then finally set for May 14, 2018. The last time youth elections were held in the country was in 2010. Months prior to the May 2018 elections, there were talks of postponing them anew. In February this year, NAMFREL issued a statement calling for the holding of the elections as scheduled. "Having regular elections is an exercise of and in democracy and the current set of barangay officials, who have been in office since 2013, would need a fresh mandate from the people they serve. In a truly functioning democracy, regularly renewing the mandate of elected officials is an exercise of good governance." There were more than 78 million registered voters for the BSKE, from 42,044 villages. More than 20 million of those registered were youth council voters (15 to 21 years old).

NAMFREL was accredited by the COMELEC as a citizens' arm for the BSKE, and volunteers observed the process throughout the country starting with the campaign period. NAMFREL volunteers reported observing the same old problems of voters being unable to find their names on the list, as well as incidents of vote buying and vote selling. However, NAMFREL noted that the process was generally peaceful throughout the country. COMELEC reported that within two days after polls opened, almost all the winners had been proclaimed. The COMELEC said it was the probably the fastest in any Philippine national election. It should be noted that Smartmatic's automated elections machines were not used during the 2018 Barangay and SK elections. The manual processes of voting and counting were employed, wherein voters wrote each name of their chosen candidates, votes were manually read out, and results were tallied and consolidated by hand using paper.

Filipino IT experts meet to discuss alternatives to the Automated Election System
As the 2019 mid-term elections approach, the transparency, cost, and efficiency of the COMELEC's automated election system--provided by foreign-owned Smartmatic--remains a concern for the country's IT community, among other stakeholders. An investigation by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) on the 2016 elections remains ongoing as of this writing, and has so far yielded more questions than answers. On top of all these, there are also ongoing protests at the Presidential Election Tribunal over the 2016 official count for vice-president, and at the Senate Electoral Tribunal over the 12th and 13th placers, which also concern the automated system used in the last national and local elections.

To officially discuss possible alternatives or improvements to the AES, Filipino IT experts have met twice so far, on June 26 and on August 15. The meetings were held to discuss the perceived flaws of and possible improvements on the AES, to learn more about existing technologies offered by Filipino companies that could be used in place of the Smartmatic AES, to get various positions and perspectives, and to have a unified set of recommendations to the JCOC-AES and to the COMELEC. There was also a discussion on the main parameters to be used in evaluating possible alternatives, and the group identified four main parameters: accuracy, security, verifiability, and auditability.

One of the possible alternatives to the current AES is a hybrid system of election, involving manual voting and counting, with electronic transmission of results and consolidation. There are currently three bills filed before Philippine Congress on a hybrid / alternative election system, but they are still awaiting consolidation after further discussion. 

Former COMELEC commissioner and current NAMFREL National Chairperson Mr. Augusto C. Lagman released last year a monograph on a version of the hybrid election system. A digital copy can be downloaded through this link: 
http://bit.ly/HybridAES. Mr. Lagman has offered the monograph to the Philippine IT community to be used in further discussions with regard the search for an alternative AES.

To get a gist on the some of the highlights of the IT discussions so far, please read the following articles by NAMFREL National Council and COMELEC Advisory Council member, Mr. Lito Averia:
Task Force Eleksyon reconvenes
Task Force Eleksyon, a national network of Filipino civil society organizations, faith-based groups, and academic institutions, advocating for electoral reform, has reconvened in time for the 2019 mid-term elections. Formed in 2016, the coalition met on July 16 to 18 to discuss important issues in connection with the coming national and local elections. On the last day of the sesisons, the coalition came out with a Statement calling for the following:
  • That the 2019 elections be held as scheduled, in May 2019
  • That people who intend to run for the elections "conduct themselves with prudence and according to ethical standards and practices in the interest of a fair electoral process"
  • That Filipinos participate actively in the conduct and monitoring of the polls
Task Force Eleksyon also affirmed its commitment to monitor all stages of the electoral process; help ensure the inclusiveness of the elections; provide a reliable alternative to disinformation on election issues; and conduct political education to develop a citizenry that engages meaningfully in the democratic process.

Read the full statement here
October 1 to 15, 2018          Special Voters' Registration in Marawi City

October 15, 2018                  Last day for Approval/Disapproval of Registration

December 17, 2018
to January 19, 2019             
Campaign Period for the Bangsamoro Plebsicite

January 21, 2019                  ELECTION DAY, Bangsamoro Plebiscite

February 7, 2019                   Last day for Implementation of Court
                                               Inclusion/Exclusion Orders

February 12, 2019                 Deadline for Posting of the Lists of Certified and Final
                                               Lists of  Voters

May 13, 2019                         ELECTION DAY, National and Local Elections
NAMFREL NEWS is the official newsletter of  the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), distributed to its network.
National Citizens' Movement For Free Elections (NAMFREL)
Unit 601, DMG Center, Domingo M. Guevarra St.,
Brgy. Mauway, Mandaluyong City, Philippines
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel. : (632) 788-3484 / (632) 736-0969
Telefax: (632) 470-4151
Mobile:  (63) 939-1102872 / (63) 927-2443781
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