Thursday, March 5, 2009

Approval of Poll Automation Budget engenders 30,000-strong group to campaign for voter education, automated polls, and ‘honest, peaceful, and credible

30,000-strong group campaigns nationwide for voter education, automated polls, and ‘honest, peaceful, and credible elections’

With the P 11.3 Billion supplemental budget for poll automation finally approved, a group that campaigned for the Automated Election System (AES) will engage in a nationwide campaign for voter education, automated polls, and "honest, peaceful, and credible elections".

Leon M. Herrera, president of Bagumbayan – Volunteers for a New Philippines (BAGUMBAYAN), made this announcement in the midst of apparent early campaigning by some potential presidential candidates.  He said that BAGUMBAYAN will start its campaign with its 30,000 members all over the country and, thereafter, instruct its members to bring the campaign to the public at large.

Herrera asserted that voter education should teach people how to evaluate candidates and choose better leaders.

"Our people are demanding for better leadership.  We will show our people that if we want better leadership, we must learn how to choose candidates with proven leadership.  This candidate must have a clear vision on where to take the country, experience in leading people to surmount great challenges, and a track record for radically improving the performance of government agencies or civic organizations," said Herrera.

He further said that the implementation of the AES law in 2010 will ensure more credible election results.  Candidates will be less likely to file protests, claiming that they did not lose because they were cheated.  Government can return its focus on delivering its services much sooner and not suffer from disruptions due to unresolved electoral disputes.

However, Herrera said that there are organized moves that seek to seriously impair the Automated Elections in 2010.

"We have to remain vigilant and vigorously assert our right to honest, peaceful, and credible elections.  We must keep pressuring Malacanang and Comelec to push through with automated polls.  This is the only way our people can realize true empowerment," said Herrera.

BAGUMBAYAN has long campaigned for credible elections through poll automation.  It lobbied for the enactment and implementation of what is now known as RA 9369 or the Amended Automated Election Law.  After the enactment of the law in December 2006, they demanded former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos to implement the pilot testing of automated polls during the 2007 elections.

When Abalos refused to implement the pilot testing phase of the Automated Elections System, BAGUMBAYAN convened with several other groups at the historic Club Filipino in January 2007.  They signed a manifesto demanding the pilot testing of the automated polling system and they mounted a massive rally at the Head Office of the Comelec in Intramuros.



In the succeeding days just before the 2007 elections, BAGUMBAYAN conducted a nationwide automated mock election to refute the claim that pilot testing in 6 provinces and 6 cities was not possible.

BAGUMBAYAN successfully conducted automated mock polls, bringing automated polling machines to 6 provinces and 6 cities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.  Around 1,800 students participated in the automated mock elections which were held at the Don Mariano Marcos University, Northern La Union Campus; Don Mariano Marcos University, Mid La Union Campus; University of Makati; Negros Maritime College in Dumaguete City; University of the Philippine Los Banos, Laguna; and Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City.

Herrera pointed out that although the Comelec is mandated to conduct honest and credible elections, the people must keep a close watch on the polling body to make sure that it fulfills its functions.

"If we want hope, we must find it ourselves.  If we want change, we must be the change that we want to be.  Our members are dedicated volunteers who are willing to sacrifice time and what little resources they have for a better future.  This is our calling – to build a new country, a New Philippines starting with ensuring that the vote of every Filipino is counted in 2010 regardless of social status, belief or persuasion", Herrera said.