smartmatic demonstrates its SAES1800 automated counting machine

Commission on Elections Law Department head Ferdinand Rafanan advised candidates who lose in next year’s elections not to bother anymore with election protests, saying they have no chance of contesting the results from the automated counting machines the Comelec will field in the 2010 polls.

“Forget election protests,” Rafanan said during a seminar on automated elections during the 2nd Political Trade Show at the World Trade Center. “You cannot win against the machine.”

“You cannot win election protests this time,” was Rafanan’s controversial response to a question from the floor on how candidates can contest the results of the elections under the new automated counting system. “You will be fighting against the machine. You cannot do that.”

Some political groups have expressed concerns that the automation of the elections would make it virtually impossible for candidates to challenge the results of the polls. This is because the counting is done through the Precinct Count Optical Machines or PCOS, and interested groups are merely given printouts of the election results. There will be no manual count or tabulation.

Many losing candidates file election protests as a matter of habit, claiming that they were cheated by the winning candidate. This has led some pundits to point out that no one ever really loses in Philippine elections, since candidates either claim to have won, or claim to have been cheated.

Rafanan insisted that the counting machines are virtually foolproof, and cannot be used to cheat in the elections. He said the software will be subjected to a review by an independent group, and the SAES 1800 machines developed by Barbados-based firm Smartmatic will be tested, programmed, and sealed prior to election day.

“Sino ang mga kalaban mo noon? Ang mga teachers, or ang mga election officers, kasi nandaya sila, kaya nilang gawin yun. Pero [with the automated counting machines], pag na program mo na yun, pag na testing mo na siya, ano pa ang laban mo dun?”

[Who were you protesting against in previous elections? They were the teachers, or the election officers, because they were able to cheat. But how can you argue against the results of machines that have already been programmed and tested to work?]

Rafanan said candidates should instead shift their sights to winning the electoral battle even before the first ballot is cast, by having their rivals disqualified for violating election rules.

“We need to shift the battle from post-election to pre-election, when you file petitions for disqualification,” Rafanan said.

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