In anticipation of disputes related to the first nationwide automated elections in 2010 in Philippines, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), through its subgrantee Libertas, worked with courts to prepare judges for potential litigation, including by developing a primer for judges and lawyers on the automated election rules. Following the elections, Libertas conducted year-long study of election litigation, analyzing how courts and lawyers confronted the legal issues surrounding automated elections.
Libertas presented its findings at a November 28, 2011, public event at the Traders Hotel in Pasay City. Vincent Yamboa, Libertas’ project director, said that the findings resulted from actual courtroom visits, hearing observations and interviews with election lawyers. He said that the study revealed some challenges, including courts’ inability to determine whether unsanctioned ballots were scanned and whether the tabulations at the precinct level were properly transmitted to the national elections commission. He also noted that none of the cases resulted in a reversal of disputed results.
Attorney George Erwin Garcia, who handled the majority of post-election disputes, said that the overall number of disputes had increased from previous elections. Garcia said that this increase was expected, as the automated system was newly introduced. He said that the use of computerized voting machines and post-election changes to recount rules might have contributed to the rise in post-election litigation. Garcia said that he expected post-election disputes to decrease in 2013, as people will become more accustomed to using electronic voting machines.
These challenges notwithstanding, the implementation of the automated elections was smoother than some had expected. Jun Lopez, ABA ROLI deputy country director in Philippines, said that none of the predicted system-wide breakdowns took place. Additionally, dispute results suggested that the voting machines had correctly tallied votes. Garcia said that none of the cases he handled showed discrepancies between initial counts and recounts. Garcia added that the automated system dramatically reduced the waiting period for election results, thereby reducing the likelihood of irregularities occurring during the waiting period.
“We are learning from our mistakes and experience so we can minimize problems in 2013,” said Garcia. “This is a good start.”
To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].