In a statement released last June 30 2009, we in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) advocacy organization Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU) posited a criticism of the COMELEC’s apparent surrender of the entire election process to the hands of foreign ICT corporation Smartmatic.
Due to the apparent lack of capacities in implementing the Automated Elections System (AES), COMELEC inadvertently “sold out” the sovereign right of electing our nation’s leaders by handing it entirely over, along with all the rights to transparency and regulation, to Smartmatic. In the entire pre-election period the Filipino people were left in the dark about the state of preparations by Smartmatic, and ultimately the source code of the AES that contains its every process was withheld from the right of the different stakeholders to review it.
In the pilot 100 days of the Aquino administration, not much progress in the quest for AES integrity was actually done. After the congressional report in June 2010 dealing severe criticisms to the conduct of the AES, not much proactivity was ever heard or noticed from the newly proclaimed administration. Despite this, COMELEC continued to mull over buying PCOS machines in preparation for the 2013 elections instead of pushing for a state-owned initiative founded on the lessons learned from the previous implementation.
Indeed, the local ICT sector, in partnership with the government and in cooperation with the different stakeholders in the Philippines’ elections, is fully capable of implementing a transparent, open-source and secure AES. A domestic, state-sponsored initiative would in fact create jobs and generate income within our economy, instead of benefiting foreign multinational corporations. It will also ensure that the government has the capacity to ensure public over private interest in the setup. We have yet to see the manifestation of Aquino’s SONA proclamation of public-private partnerships in this respect.
In addition, CPU believes that the Aquino administration, out of commitment to democracy if not to decency, should have pushed through with not only a review of the entire conduct of the elections but with a strong commitment to hold accountable those responsible for compromising our election’s integrity and sovereign interest with such a hasty and bungled implementation. This commitment should be the priority driver of their decision regarding the AES question, and not what we perceive as fears for the question on their mandate as victors through the AES.
Aquino’s treatment of this national issue will be an indicator on how our leaders understand and treat the ICT sector. If the trend of prioritizing foreign interests over the welfare and concerns of our nation’s technologists and industry workers continues, we must not take this sitting down and step up our efforts to unite with the people in advocating for genuine reforms. This, after all, is not a problem only the ICT sector is facing, but a concern that affects the sovereignty of the entire Filipino people.