Monday, March 16, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Remember when Bush went here on a State visit about 6 years ago. GMA was so happy about it that she decided to renege on her promise before Jose Rizal's monument not to run for presidency. She believed Bush's unofficial anointing would be enough reason to break her word.

If GMA took advantage of every exposure she had with bumbling Bush (she and her countrymen being the butt of Bush's jokes, notwithistanding), what more of a popular U.S. president in the person of Obama?

A news report says that GMA was giddy after talking to Obama over the phone, with the conversation revolving mainly around the VFA. And I'm sure that GMA's men will milk this event and portray the two presidents as best buddies (or something to that effect). But really, what's the fuss? Obama spoke not just with GMA that day. He also talked to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In other words, Obama was just doing his presidential duty of checking up on his country's "allies" - nothing more to it.

Furthermore, the phone call doesn't change the fact that VFA is grossly against our favor. The Inquirer report said it best:
[Palawan Rep. Abraham] Mitra said Obama’s charm did not boost the merits of having a VFA.

"His blackberry call might be a special moment for the President but it should not trigger a euphoric celebration for the rest of us. The US can invoke the VFA when it suits them but in the same vein, they can disown it when it threatens their interest as in the case of Smith. If Obama had told the President that Smith will be turned over to us, then that would have made our day, a change in policy that we could believe in," said Mitra in a text message.

Photo: Enrique Dans, Flickr, Creative Commons

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review: Antonio Bautsista's Basic Evidence

Atty Antonio Bautista's Basic Evidence features a topical discussion of the rules on Evidence. It is mainly an academic discussion of the subject. The discussion generally go into the spirit of the rules. The book discusses the wisdom, the pros and cons of a particular rule.
U.S. caselaws and American authorities like Wigmore, Lilly and Kirkpatrick are extensively quoted to shed light on the various topics. And while our rules on Evidence are based on common law, some discussions may not apply in our jurisdiction on all fours.
The book is recommended if you want to know about the rationale of our rules on Evidence. But if you are studying for the bar, I won't recommend this book.

Friday, March 6, 2009

It's Automated Elections in 2010

At long last, we'll be having computerized elections nationwide come 2010.
It's good to finally do away with manual counting. It is highly susceptible to manipulation, not to mention grossly inefficient. So the full automation is welcome news indeed.
There are still concerns about the new system Senator Chiz Escudero has this to say:
I am not willing to spend even a single centavo for a system which is not tested, for a system we cannot even describe or define, or a system that we’re not even sure of delivering a clean, honest and fair election.
Which is a perfectly valid point. But I think that it is better to have computerized elections in 2010 than continue with our old ways. This is one instance where the cost is immaterial. If we find out that the system falls short of expectations, then we will have to find a suitable one come the next elections. But to continue with manual counting is unacceptable. We have to start sometime, Why not now?
There are also concerns that cheating will still continue despite the new system. Realistically speaking, I think it's highly improbable that cheating will be totally eradicated. But at least it will be greatly minimized. While there are fears that the wrong contractor will be chosen, or that the system chosen will still be vulnerable to manipulation. But I think COMELEC Commissioner Jose Melo has enough credibility and has proven competency for the job ahead.

Photo: bfick, Flickr, Creative Commons

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who's Afraid of Automated Elections?

In a time when everything is fast-paced, our leaders doggedly cling to the tortoise-like pace of counting ballots.
An Inquirer report has this to say:
MalacaƱang should understand that there is no more time to implement full automation in the May 2010 election, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia said.
We've been through this for a very long time. We know the advantages of having automated elections - how wonderful it is to see elections in other countries where counting takes only a few hours. What's stopping us from implementing the same here?
Okay, the implementation of full automation may be difficult, but it is not insurmountable. The expenses may be high, but I'm sure the government can throw in a few more bucks just to overhaul our antiquated system. If we can award millions of pesos to Mega Pacific for junk, then we can surely afford an effective system.
Our congressmen would have none of that. There are other problems to tackle:
[Congressman Pablo] Garcia said full automation could not be carried out because Republic Act 9369 mandated the use of both manual and the electronic system.

It also requires the participation of watchers in the counting of votes in the precinct. If the votes in the precinct will be counted by the machines, then the watchers will no longer have participation in the process, he added.

“The danger is there is no more human intervention, the machine will perform or function as it is told to do by the brain or source code,” Garcia said.

Counting the votes in the precinct level using the machines will also require some 80,000 machines and the same number of persons who should be “technically-competent” and certified by the Department of Science and Technology.
As to the illegality of full automation because it goes against R.A. 9369, it is merely making a mountain out of a molehill. They are Congress, for Aout loud! Amend the law so the issues can be reconciled! Problem solved!
As to human intervention, I don't think more human involvement helps the cause. In fact, it is more of a hindrance. Less human intervention means less chances of cheating, right? Or maybe, that's exactly what politicians fear.
Now, the problem of "technically-competent" persons merit serious consideration. As to how technically competent the machine operator would be would depend on the machine involved. If the machine is user-friendly enough, I'm sure our teachers are able enough to know how it works. The issue, therefore, hinges on the machine to be obtained, and not necessarily to the operator thereof.
Sure, there are risks in implementing a new system like this. But I believe that the pros far outweigh the cons. There is no better time than now to change our election system and to minimize election cheating. Resources are not lacking, willpower is.

Photo: Ken Bosma, Flickr, Creative Commons
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