Manila, March 1, 2003 -- An election without Namfrel?

Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos yesterday hinted as much, saying the Comelec might reject the application of the election watchdog to conduct operation quick count (OQC) in 2004.

Abalos said there would be no need for Namfrel to continue its traditional Operation Quick Count (OQC) after the Comelec automates the procedures in counting and canvassing of ballots.

He said the Comelec has already received P3 million for its modernization fund from the Department of Budget and Management. The poll body will bid out three automation projects this month.

The projects consist of the voter registration validation project, the ballot counting machine project, and the electronic transmission of election results project.

The Comelec is ready to have the machines installed months before the May 2004 general elections, according to Abalos.

Guillermo Luz, Namfrel secretary general, said on Wednesday there is no way the Comelec can automate the election results in the next 16 months.

Luz said that short period, "compounded by the Comelec's incompetent set of commissioners," would make it impossible for the poll body to have three automation projects operational in time.

Abalos said that once the Comelec fully succeeds in automating the election processes, the poll body would come up with faster, more reliable results.

Namfrel has two pending applications for accreditation with the Comelec. It wants to be accredited as the Comelec citizen's arm so it could have one of the six copies of the election returns, and it also wants to conduct OQC again.

In Namfrel's quick counting procedure, volunteers relay election results from precincts to the municipal or city chapters, which would then collate and relay those results to the provincial chapter and later to the OQC center, usually based in La Salle Greenhills.

Abalos said that in Comelec's modernization program, election results would be electronically and directly transmitted from the municipal chapter to the canvassing center in Manila. (By ARESTI TANGLAO, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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