Be transparent, Comelec told

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Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes answers questions from the bishops about the May 2013 automated elections during the CBCP plenary assembly in Manila, Jan. 28.

MANILA, Jan. 29, 2013— Suspicions and lack of trust over the upcoming automated elections will remain if questions and concerns about the system remain unanswered, Catholic bishops said.

The Commission on Elections has yet to clarify on a range of outstanding issues hounding the automated polls, which drew concern from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“If not properly addressed, the present automated election system can lead to wholesale cheating. The integrity of a pillar of our democracy – the election – is at stake,” the CBCP said.

The bishops’ statement is contained in the CBCP’s pastoral statement released on Tuesday after their three-day pastoral assembly in Manila.

According to the bishops’ collegial body, the election is not a matter of speed but trustworthiness and honesty.

While they have nothing against the system per se, the church officials said the poll body must be transparent and address concerns of many groups who just want fair and credible elections.

“We call upon the Comelec to adequately address the issues and respond, place corrective measures if necessary, to the studies of technical experts to the alleged deficiencies of the present system and technology of automated elections,” they said.

There can be no transparency in elections if the Comelec itself is not transparent,” the bishops added.

CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said it is not their intention to criticize the Comelec or discredit the automated election system but they just raise concerns of the public.

“We voice out the concern of many because we would wish and we want the elections as a process, will truly be credible. Until these guarantees are in placed we will continue to be fearful,” Palma said.

“It has to be clear especially to the voters and candidates. We are not candidates, we bring this out because we care for the people, for the process, and we care for our country,” he added.

Issues and concerns about the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines were among the topics discussed by the bishops during their plenary assembly.

Last Saturday, various poll watchdogs led by Automated Election Systems Watch (AES Watch) presented to the bishops the flaws and dangers of the PCOS machines that will be used in the May elections.

Yesterday, the bishops then listened to the side of the poll body led by its Chairman Sixto Brillantes and other Comelec commissioners.

But Palma said that due to the limited time, there are still many concerns that Comelec has answer to assure the credibility and reliability of the PCOS machines.

“As of now, we can only hope and pray… optimism is part of a Christian virtue but we also want our fears to be resolved immediately,” he said.

For his part, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Comelec should build the needed safeguards to ensure that the voting machines will not be used for cheating.

“That’s why the Comelec should answer all the questions on its (machines) integrity to erase the doubt in the minds of the people,” said Pabillo who chair the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action. (CBCPNews)

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