The Commission on Elections en banc has ordered the full automation of the 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. COMELEC Resolution No. 8415, dated 06 February 2008, called for the use of automated election systems based on two different kinds of technology: Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology in the province of Maguindanao and Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology for the rest of the region. DRE allows voting through a touch-screen or touch-pad, while OMR requires voters to fill up a paper ballot which is then counted with a specially designed machine.
“The use of different kinds of automated election systems will allow the COMELEC to evaluate the suitability of the two different technologies of the Philippine setting, preparatory to designing an Automated Election System for nation-wide use in 2010,” COMELEC spokesman James Jimenez Said. “This set-up closely adheres to the recommendation of the Advisory Council.”
The only difference, according to Jimenez, was in the scope of the use of DRE. “The Council’s recommendation called for the use of DRE-based automated election system in only two cities or municipalities in the ARMM.”
The COMELEC resolution, however, cited concerns regarding the small scope. “Among other things, it was pointed out that if the implementation area is too small, there won’t be enough basis to say whether a DRE based automated elections will work nationwide,” Jimenez clarified. Other reasons cited by the Resolution included the concern that the small scope of the project would discourage technology proponents from bidding for it, and that the results would not be enough to make a comparison between OMR and DRE technology.
The resolution expanded the scope of DRE use to include the entire province of Maguindanao, citing the province’s level of development, as well as the contiguous nature of its geography. “The en banc determined that, comparatively speaking, the province of Maguindanao is the most viable implementation area for DRE-based automated elections,” Jimenez said.
The Advisory Council is the body of expert advisers created by Republic Act 9369 that is tasked to recommend to the COMELEC which technology to use for the automation of elections. Republic Act 9369 also states that “nothing in the role of the Council or any outside intervention or influence shall be construed as an abdication or diminution of the Commission’s authority and responsibility for the effective development, management, and implementation on the Automated Election System.”