It seems that when you have no substantive argument, you can resort to calling the opponent’s position as “absurd.” Mon Casiple, an election watchdog, reportedly said of the Harry Roque petition:
The end result of his petition will be to stop the automation, but his group wants to portray themselves to the public as supporters of the poll automation.”
A question for Mon Casiple is simple: How does he know that the Roque petition will derail poll automation?
Of course, if the petition has merit, it would derail the Smartmatic-TIM contract. That is not the same as derailing automation per se. Casiple’s comment suggests that he believes that Comelec will then do nothing more, and simply revert to manual election. Why is that?
It may be argued that “there will be little time left” to automate. If true, Casiple imples that this is supposed to be the fault of Roque et al. Casiple seems to want it both ways: One is that Roque is absurd, but if not, then it is Roque’s fault that automation will not take place.
But there is something that can be “saved” from the controversy. There is time to implement proper pilot testing at the 2010 elections, and the Smartmatic-TIM contract can be novated into a part of a pilot test. Such an approach would be well in accord with the law. Of course, the monetary amounts involved should be scaled down accordingly.
It may even be proper to interpret the law to allow for automation of the canvass nationwide, while conducting pilot tests of precinct counts. The technologies of counting and transmission are severable, and the “demonstrated capability” requirement may be met by the technology for transmission and canvass of precinct results. (I urge Mr. Casiple, as watchdog, to promote the idea that the watchdogs would take pictures of manually produced election returns, and upload them into sites where the public or media can consolidate the results themselves. This is an approach that is also in accord with RA 9369. While this may require resources and energy, I am sure the watchdog groups have these. )
The basis for this suggestion is that the electronic transmission of precinct counts can easily be made transparent, whereas absent pilot testing there remain serious doubts on the integrity of the precinct count made by machine.
But it seems that a pilot test is not what Comelec or Mr. Casiple wants. It seems that what they both want is full automation without a pilot test. The still-nagging question is Why.