October 13, 2019
Zombie ideas are those policy propositions that have been refuted by evidence and empirical studies and are supposed to be dead, but continue to have new leases on life because they serve either partisan purposes or self-serving agendas. Examples: trade wars are easy to win; tax cuts are good for the economy and they pay for themselves; and the efficiency of the markets and government regulations are the starting point of the “road to serfdom.”
Mr. Donald Trump’s trade war with China, the European Union and even its North American neighbors are part of the major reasons for the current global economic anxiety. As our own Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas head said, perhaps in exasperation, Mr. Trump is a major problem, his erratic, ego-driven policies setting back the growth of the global economy in many ways.
The Trump tax cuts were a giveaway to his wealthy cronies, not a timely injection of steroids on the US and global economies. The proceeds from the tax cuts, this is backed by data, were not used to ramp up investments and prop up the pay of the American workers. They were devoted mostly to share buybacks.
Trump’s “easy to win” trade war with China has caused untold sufferings on the many sectors of the US economy and the world.
In the Philippine political setting, we have two zombie ideas that have enough residual staying power and appeal. And that is precisely the reason they get into the front, back and center of the national conversation on occasions. First is the shift to a federal form of government. That it would be a magic cure to the evils and failures of Philippine politics has been disproved. But some in the House leadership hold on to that proposition as if it were the gospel of the country’s political and economic salvation. Second is the proposition for the adoption of the hybrid mode, automated and manual, in the Philippine electoral counts.
Of the two, what is getting new life from Philippine polity today is proposal for the adoption of a hybrid electoral count. This zombie idea is being peddled by top leaders of the House of Representatives. The voting and the counting would be done manually. The electronic component would be the transmission part. Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd is also a proponent of the hybrid electoral count and has filed a bill calling for the shift of the entire electoral process from automated to hybrid.
What is driving the new effort to shift to the so-called hybrid electoral system or HES? It is basically a tortured concept of streamlining the electoral process. After a taste of automation and the birth pains that go with it, the solution offered to the birth pains is not the adoption of a better technology to guarantee a 100-percent electoral integrity, but the return to the chaotic, fraud-vulnerable and messy manual process.
Adopting a hybrid mode would be the worst thing that could ever happen to the electoral system and to Philippine democracy. Just think of the vulnerabilities and challenges that go with doing the voting and the counting the manual way. In a politically polarized environment, where political divisions are bitter and deeply rooted, the sure trigger to the implosion of our wobbly democracy would be a voting and counting system done the manual way.
Have we not heard of the evolution of technology, from sophisticated to more sophistication? Electoral technology is covered by those same giant leaps in technology and innovation.
Why not make the two the centerpiece of electoral reforms?
First, kick out Smartmatic. This provider should be banned from the next public bid for technology providers. The Commission on Elections should tell Smartmatic to ship out. (Back into the arms of Mr. Nicolas Maduro — okay, just joking.) And return to Venezuela. At the root of the distrust of the automated mode have been the lapses and shortcomings of Smartmatic, its malfunctioning machines and the general impression of its underwhelming performance. Also, let us guard against the possible return of Smartmatic under a new name or a new corporate cover.
Second, is to seek out the best technology provider via a global/international bid that would attract the world’s best providers of electoral technology. Funding should be made available. The survival of our unstable democracy is more important than 10 Build, Build, Build, programs.
The two chambers of Congress, the technology associations in the country, the Filipinos with stellar roles at Silicon Valley should form the oversight body that would monitor the international bid for the best technology provider.
Are there a group of crusaders called “well-meaning charlatans”? Many are reminded of that phrase as the call for a HES currently shifts to a high gear mode. The hybrid call is a zombie idea that shambles on and moves forward probably on the backs of the well-meaning charlatans.
The problem is our democracy is too fragile and too vulnerable to fraud and manipulation that we can ill-afford the proposition for a hybrid system.
Also, let the teachers, who oppose a return to the manual count, have their say. After all, they are the heart and soul of the country’s electoral system.
Last word. The information empires are in a race on who should dominate the artificial intelligence race. In contrast, we are in our most bizarre Luddite, back-to-the-medieval times moment — a return to the fraudulent manual component of our uber-critical electoral process. Indeed, only in the Philippines.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net