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Comelec's pilot testing of automated brgy polls in 3 areas questioned in Senate

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was urged to set a different date for the pilot testing of the automated election system for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE).

Senate electoral reforms and people's participation Chairperson Imee Marcos on Monday expressed her reservations on Comelec's plans after Comelec Chairman George Garcia informed the senators that the pilot test will be done simultaneously with the 2023 BSKE on October 30.

"Didn't you pilot it previously? I've never heard of a pilot during the election, at the same time with the same results. That's no longer a pilot," Marcos said during the hearing.

"I understand the necessity of trying another way of doing things aside from the purely manual method that we've been accustomed to. Pero kung ite-testing 'yan dapat naman unahin sa eleksyon 'no. 'Wag naman mag-testing during the election, nakakatakot naman yata yan," she went on.

(If the testing will be done, don't do it during the actual election. It's risky.)

Garcia agreed to Marcos' sentiment and clarified that the Comelec en banc has yet to approve the guidelines of their plan to conduct the pilot testing of the automated elections in barangays on the day of the 2023 polls.

"We will definitely, take seriously the advice of the good chairperson... What we are saying is, we are  going to pilot test, pilot in the sense that this is the first time in the history of our BSKE, to conduct automated pilot test, automated election in two places, but we are going to test whether it is really feasible before the October 30 [Barangay and SK Elections]," he added.

Last February 15, the Comelec en banc approved the pilot testing of the automated election system (AES) in Barangays Zone II, Poblacion and Paliparan III in Dasmarinas City, Cavite and in Barangay Pasong Tamo in Quezon City.

The poll body came up with the decision upon mutual consultation and agreement between the Comelec and the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco earlier said.

Premature campaigning

Meanwhile, Marcos also asked how Comelec will apply its rules against premature campaigning if there will be pilot testing of the automated election system during the October 30 polls after the poll body announced that the rules on premature campaigning for the 2023 BSKE will be different from the automated elections.

Garcia earlier said that a person will be immediately considered a candidate once he or she files his or her certificate of candidacy.

"Upon the meticulous study of the Peñera vs COMELEC decision, the poll body officials arrived at the conclusion that the SC ruling may well be applicable for the conduct of automated elections alone. This, therefore, excludes the upcoming BSKE in October of this year, which will be implemented via manual voting process," Garcia said in a previous statement.

Marcos, however, pointed out that the Comelec cannot implement different sets of rules for the 2023 BSKE.

"We can't have a different set of rules for three barangays versus the rest of the country. Surely, that's not feasible," Marcos said.

In response, Garcia said the en banc will implement this rule on premature campaigning across the board.

"We already approved the guidelines that as far as the Peñera case is concerned, that will not be applicable for the conduct of the manual election," Garcia said.

The BSKE was supposed to be held in December 2022 but was moved to October 2023.  —VAL, GMA Integrated News