Briefing Paper on Republic Act No. 9369 and the Automated Election System
Introduction and Scope of the Paper
On January 23, 2007, less than four months before the May 14, 2007 congressional and local elections, President Gloria MacapagalArroyo signed into law Republic Act (RA) No. 9369. This law amended and repealed almost all of RA 8436', a 1997 law that authorized the conduct of an automated election. Questions were raised as to whether the May 2007 elections would be automated. But the Commission on Elections (COM ELEC) declared that it was not possible to conduct an automated election as there was not enough time to prepare for it.
However, even after it was certain that the May 2007 elections were to be purely manual, a lot of other worrisome issues relating to RA 9369 surfaced. Many, including some COMELEC staff, were apprehensive of the changes introduced by RA 9369 to the counting and canvassing stages of the election under a manual process. The law also amended portions of several laws, like the Omnibus Election Code and its amendatory laws - RA 6646,' RA 7166,3 RA 8045: and RA 8173,5 relating to manual elections. These issues shall be discussed later in this paper.
Nonetheless the issues were rendered moot when none of the new requirements in RA 9369, except the posting of the Election Returns and the Certificates of Canvass,6 were implemented.
Recently, COMELEC decided to use automated election system (AES) in the upcoming August 11, 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a way of pilot-testing the use of new election technologies.' The Commission decided to apply the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) election system in the whole province of Maguindanao, and the paper based election system using Optical Mark Reader (OMR) in the rest of the region.'
This paper hopes to explore the nuances of RA 9369 and anticipate the possible issues that may arise as regards its implementation in actual elections. The law will be analyzed both as a governing statute on election automation, and as a law that introduced several crucial changes to the manual process.