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Bishop adds voice to calls for manual vote count

The Catholic bishop of the Bacolod diocese threw his support behind calls for a parallel manual count of votes in the May 10 elections. Bishop Vicente Navarra urged his flock to call on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow the manual counting to be conducted simultaneously with the electronic count, to make sure the polls are clean. He is only the latest influential personality to demand a simultaneous audit of the automated count to erase doubts that the electronic process is not rigged. In his province, Negros Occidental, the governor, several mayors, and academic and business leaders have already called for a parallel manual count. In a letter to the clergy, excerpts of which were posted Saturday on Visayan Daily Star, Navarra said the May 10 elections bring hope to the nation, but with hope comes the fear of another “Hello Garci" or failure of elections. “We do not want to be prophets of doom by citing the negatives of election preparations. But we need to be proactive and we should consider other options in case problems like these crop up on election day. A fall-back plan should always be part of a good strategy," he said in his letter. Navarra cited problems besetting the Comelec in the automated system, including Comelec's failure to keep to their original time frame in the delivery of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, and the delay in the printing of ballots. He also cited the overpricing of ballot secrecy folders, the dubious indelible ink contractor, and the lack of adequate review of the source code for the PCOS machines. Navarra particularly backed calls for a parallel manual counting of votes for president, vice president, governors, congressmen and mayors. That would require the Boards of Election Inspectors to count the votes the old-fashioned way, even as the PCOS machines are electronically sending the data to computer servers across the country. Fears are rife that automation could be used to make cheating even harder to detect. He encouraged the public to support the move by signing a manifesto calling for the parallel manual count. “Let us exhort our people to call on the Comelec to ensure fair, transparent and credible elections," he said. Other Bacolod officials who support the move for a parallel manual count include Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco, Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Talisay Mayor Eric Saratan, Binalbagan Mayor Alejandro Mirasol, Bro. Ray Suplido – president of the University of St. La Salle, Manuel Lamata – president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, Frank Carbon of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bacolod, and Ben Ortega of the Bacolod Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.—JV, GMANews.TV