Press Release
June 12, 2006


Senator Aquilino Pimentel says that I threw a tantrum the other night. I did not throw a tantrum. I was expressing anger the anger of our people that despite years of politicians hurling allegations of electoral fraud, no one has done anything concrete about any of it. Because I was emphatic and passionate about my views, they called it a tantrum. What is worse are the frequent antics of Senator Pimentel who needs only to express his general opposition to any measure, a privilege he often exercises, and that measure takes either the long and winding road to approval or is dead in the water, much to the detriment and disadvantage of our people.

For the last ten months, in four committee hearings, four technical working group meetings, and four caucuses called precisely to address the concerns of other senators, we have been discussing the Automated Elections Bill. The period of interpellation where senators debate over the bill has long been over, and we have been in the period of amendments since April. In fact, we have already incorporated the amendments from our other colleagues like Senators Enrile and Roxas as committee amendments. Despite this progress, Senator Pimentel went back into a debate over the bill, and did not present any amendments. For months, despite being aware of the crucial timeline, he committed to submit his amendments, but he never did.

What happened the other night when the passage of this bill was prevented was a travesty for our people.

I have been accused of being too passionate and impatient in my advocacy of this bill. Yes, I am impatient for our people to have the true democracy that they deserve. And I will be passionate about fighting for what I believe will bring true freedom and independence for our country, and nobody who calls this youthful exuberance is going to stop me. I will not cheat our country and our people of the service that is rightfully theirs by being a mediocre, or worse, obstructionist, senator.

What really disheartens me, what really dismays me, is that after ten long months of work, I have yet to hear concrete proposals from those who have reserved to make amendments. These are the same people who barely attend committee hearings and who never attended TWG meetings and caucuses. In fact, the caucuses were called for the specific purpose of addressing the concerns of Senator Pimentel and the others who had questions. Senator Pimentel never attended these caucuses, and attended only one hearing. Out of respect for our democratic systems and for our colleagues, however, we constantly gave way to their demands for more time to study the bill.

For several months, I have received repeated assurances from them that they would support and prioritize this bill, and yet, every time we are on the floor to discuss it, they stall and delay, claiming they need yet more time. More time than the ten months that have already passed? They pass the ball around between Senator Pimentel and Senator Osmena, and every time, each one has a reason or method to put the bill off but never an actual amendment based on a serious study of the bill, which they never seem to get around to doing. It is dispiriting that despite the hard and earnest work so many people have put into this bill, despite the seriousness with which many senators have treated it, and despite the obvious great need to immediately provide an electoral process with integrity, some of those in the Senate minority have have been extremely unfair to our people by hampering the passage of this bill.

Where are the priorities? People are preoccupied with Cha Cha, which is about giving more and more power to the politicians. But what I want to do through this bill is give the power back to the people.

The Automated Elections Bill merely amends an existing law (Republic Act No. 8436) on automated elections. The policy to automate was already made years ago. We are merely improving the system, and our proposals are simple:

ONE, our proposed amendments will stop the wholesale cheating of dagdag-bawas by allowing for instantaneous electronic transmission of the results from the precinct to Congress. It will eliminate the people who delay the counting in order to pad or subtract the votes. We, the people, the media, and the candidates, will know who our President is in less than 24 hours. TWO, our proposed amendments will tighten up the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). Our bill proposes technology neutrality which means that a private sector body of advisers will recommend that only the most efficient and effective technology will be used unlike the old law, which was crafted by the COMELEC and practically sounded like a purchase order of particular equipment to favor a particular supplier.

THREE, our proposed amendments call for the testing of the system 6 months before the election, to make sure that the system works. That's why we have a timeline. That's why we have to stick to the timeline.

We are fighting a war on cheating in elections. In fighting a war, we have to act fast, and act decisively. Or else, we will lose. Our people will lose.

We want to end cheating in elections as soon as possible. We want to test out a system by 2007, so when we choose a president in 2010, there will be no question. It will be beyond doubt. If we do not do this now, will we wait until 2013? Until 2016? How long will it take? If we don't fix this now, people will always question the elections. We will never have a stable political system. There will always be winners in an election, but until we provide a good automated system, the winners will always be questioned, and also until then, the Filipino people will be the big loser all because of the cavalier way this bill is being delayed by some people.

It is unfortunate that some of my colleagues do not see the urgency of fixing the problem of cheating, especially since Senator Pimentel himself claims to have been victimized by dagdag-bawas in 1995, and since the minority has been crying bloody murder over alleged fraud in the 2004 elections.

I believe we are an honorable people. It is true that there will be people who will still try to cheat. No system can be perfect. But we have to try our hardest to beat the cheaters. We can do this by changing the technology. We have to show to ourselves and the world that the Filipino believes in and will fight for his right to choose his leaders.

We must remain vigilant and protect our rights. Only then can our people achieve true freedom and independence. END.

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