Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, October 13, 2006

Senate OKs bill on poll automation test in 12 areas in 2007

By Veronica Uy
AFTER much debate and amendments, the Senate voted unanimously on Thursday on a measure seeking to test poll automation in 6 cities and 6 provinces in the 2007 polls.

The 13 who voted in favor of Senate Bill 2231 were Senators Richard Gordon, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Rodolfo Biazon, Joker Arroyo, Juan Flavier, Pia Cayetano, Alfredo Lim, Edgardo Angara, Francis Pangilinan, Manuel Villar, Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, and Luisa "Loi" Estrada.

The 12 cities and provinces, to be decided by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), will be composed of two cities and two provinces each from Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao, according to the measure.

A 10 a.m. session was scheduled Thursday after the one on Wednesday was suspended at 12:55 a.m. when Gordon, sponsor of the automated polls bill, rejected Senator Manuel Roxas II's amendment to stop a full automation in the 2010 presidential elections following the pilot-test.

After accepting 32 pages of Senator Sergio OsmeƱa III's amendments, Gordon refused to back down on Roxas' proposal.

Gordon said accepting Roxas' amendment would mean a going back to a manual system unless Congress passed another automation bill. He noted that this option would take too long.

Roxas' office clarified that he is not out to stop nationwide poll automation after 2007, only for Congress to assess the results of the testing before allowing full implementation in 2010.

Roxas's amendment calls for an oversight committee to "conduct a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of the performance of the different AES (automated election system) technologies implemented in the 2007 elections and shall make appropriate recommendations to Congress, in session assembled."

Before the session and the voting, Gordon lashed out at "the powerful, the mighty, and the rich" who have the money to buy votes. "They are the ones who are stopping this because they cannot use their money to buy votes when this automated polls system is put in place."

Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada tried to delay the voting.

Reacting to a motion to close the period of amendment, Estrada said he preferred that those who wanted to introduce more amendments to be present.

Estrada and his mother abstained from voting on the motion to close the period of amendment.

But Senate Majority Floor Leader Pangilinan pointed out that the agenda had been set before the suspension of the session. "Their absence today is considered a waiver of [their right to] individual amendment," he said.

When the vote on the bill was made, the mother-and-son senators voted for it.


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