Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. has urged the House of Representatives to study the possibility of automating the October 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) national elections.
In filing House Resolution 717, Barzaga said the automation will not only yield faster results and early proclamation of the winners, but also “prevent human intervention or error and confusion in the appreciation of ballot on an experimental basis on the BSK Elections in large barangays preferably in Metro Manila.”
In his resolution, Barzaga asked the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to conduct an inquiry on the “viability and feasibility of adopting the experimental use of the Automated Elections System (AES) in the Barangay and SK elections.”
“Automated elections have proven to be economical as it can accommodate up to more than 1,000 voters per clustered precinct as opposed to the 500 voters per precinct in manual elections which entails hiring more personnel in manual elections,” he said in the resolution.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. signed last October 10 Republic Act (RA) No. 11935 moving the December 5, 2022 barangay and SK elections to the October 30, 2023 and holding succeeding elections every three years thereafter.
As of October 2022, there were 42,022 barangays in the country, each of which has one punong barangay and seven Sangguniang barangay members, one SK chairperson and seven members.
Barzaga said since there will be two ballots for the barangay and SK elections, one for regular voters aged 18 and above and another one for SK voters aged 15 up to 30, the existing Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) “can be refurbished and modified to accept two ballots from a single voter who qualifies to vote in both Barangay and SK elections and the machines can tabulate separately the results of the Barangay and SK elections.”
Historically, the resolution said, manual elections “encounter numerous problems including the inaccurate counting, interpretation and appreciation of ballots, among others, and the consolidation of votes in bigger Barangays usually take two to three days unlike in automated elections which immediately transmit the results to the canvassing center upon closing of the voting.”
Barzaga pointed out that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was lauded for the conduct of the recently concluded May 9, 2022 national and local elections for having the fastest results and highest voter turnout since the Philippines adopted the AES in 2010 and the public has accepted the results of the elections.
In the 2022 national polls, 55,290,821 Filipinos voted out of the 65,745,526 number of registered voters or 84.10 percent voter turnout, in 106,174 clustered precincts across the country, the lawmaker noted in the resolution.
The measure also cited the fact that the COMELEC owned the 97,000 refurbished vote-counting machines (VCMs) it purchased in 2016 and leased additional VCMs which was used in the conduct of the 2022 elections and a portion of these machines can be used in the BSK Elections in the pilot barangays.
Barzaga said that since the AES was utilized in the 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and the 2022 national and local elections, “Filipino voters are well-versed in using the same to cast their votes.”