May 10, 2019
After declining its accreditation by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the citizens’ arm in Monday’s elections, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) is going around town explaining why it did so.
Namfrel is surely within its right to refuse the Comelec accreditation. The Comelec, in turn, has full authority to grant or reject the Namfrel condition as it sees fit.
What is puzzling is why Namfrel wants to stir much public interest and publicity about its move to decline accreditation in the balloting.
As we understand the dealings between Comelec and Namfrel, their expected agreement fell through when Namfrel made a request to be granted open access data, and the Comelec turned it down.
In its manifestation filed before the Comelec and in a public statement, Namfrel says it declined the accreditation because “in its view it is now time to test the verifiability of the separately provided precinct counts against subsequent transmissions and aggregations.”
Namfrel dismissed suggestions that it has plans of doing something questionable with its request for open election data.
Explaining its position, it said election data is voluminous and is usually presented in the aggregate. “The underlying data or basis, such as returns, certificates of canvass, transmission logs, tracking of data movements are not visible and, in any case, are not expressed in a manner that is readable by an ordinary voter.”
It proposes a website that would present the data relatable to the public; this would then produce transparency and provide additional credibility for the elections.
The poll body, for its part, appears to have sound reasons in refusing to grant Namfrel access to the main server data.
Other groups would protest, why should Namfrel be given preferential treatment?
The Comelec, as the constitutional body that governs matters concerning the elections, has the authority to approve or disapprove such request. Namfrel is only requesting accommodation, and must accept the decision without letting it imperil its mission as a citizens’ election watchdog.
If this tiff worsens, the matter could wander into areas that may be unpleasant for both Namfrel and the Comelec.
It might lead to a situation in which some quarters would find it necessary to review the entire history of Namfrel and its far-from-spotless record. For sure, it would not want to be asked about the sources of its funding.
Namfrel claims online that it only began operations as an election watchdog in the 1986 snap election. The earlier history of the election watchdog is many times more colorful.
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