Manila, April 7, 2003 -- The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections 
is still planning to conduct operation quick count (OQC) in the 2004 
elections, despite earlier pronouncements by Comelec Chairman Benjamin 
Abalos  that it would no longer be necessary for them to do so once 
elections next year are automated.

Instead of the usual fourth copy of election returns the Namfrel was 
obtaining from the Commission on Elections for its OQC, the elections 
watchdog would ask Comelec for a diskette copy of the municipal or city 
results so that it could still conduct an unoffcial tally of results.

Comelec Commissioner Resurreccion Borra said Namfrel chairman Jose 
Concepcion is negotiating with Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos to 
accommodate this request.

He said should all automation projects of the Comelec be activated for the 
2004 elections, Namfrel would modify its application for accredictation to 
enable the election watchdog to get a copy of the diskette (or soft) copy 
for elections results apart from the hard copy of election tallies.

"If Namfrel would only get the elections results, their OQC would be moot 
because with the counting machines and the electronic transmission of 
results projects we would be implementing, the Comelec would have the 
results faster than Namfrel's," Borra said.

Namfrel's plans to conduct OQC ran couter to earlier pronouncements it made 
at the height of a word war with Abalos two months ago over the poll body's 
modernization programs.

Guillermo Luz, Namfrel secretary general, had said it was impossible for 
the Comelec to automate the 2004 elections with very little time and with 
the same "incompetent set of commissioners."

An irked Abalos said Namfrel is opposing the Comelec's modernization 
program because with elections results coming in faster and more accurate, 
Namfrel's OQC would be rendered inutile.

Namfrel executive director Telibert Laoc said Namfrel is willing to 
withdraw its application for accreditation for OQC if Comelec makes true 
its promise to automate the elections next year.

The Comelec awarded last week contracts for two of its three modernization 
phases: The voter validation system and the electronic transmission of 
results. It is set to announce the winner of the bidding for the 
acquisition of 2,500 counting machines this week.

Borra would not comment on Namfrel's chances in light of the apparent "bad 
blood" it has with several Comelec officials.

Apart from Abalos, Namfrel had locked horns with four Comelec commissioners 
Luzviminda Tancangco, Ralph Lantion, Mehol Sadain, and Rufino Javier over 
Namfrel's impeachment efforts against Tancangco and the election watchdog's 
opposition to the P6.5 billion voter registration and identification 
system, which the four are backing.

Borra, a known ally Namfrel ally, said the perceived rift between Abalos 
and the Namfrel was merely created by the media.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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