Palace addressing leadership vacuum on poll automation

Posted on August 15, 2011

THE PALACE is addressing concerns on the recent reorganization of an agency that may have an impact on preparations to automate the midterm elections in 2013, a Malacañang aide said yesterday.

The assurance was made after Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. has cautioned that the chairmanship at the Comelec Advisory Council must be filled if preparations for the automated polls will proceed as scheduled.

The advisory council used to be chaired by the chief of the Commission on Information Technology and Communications (CITC), formerly under the Office of the President.

On June 23, however, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III signed Executive Order 47 that transferred the agency under the administrative supervision of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) and renamed it Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO).

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail D. Valte said she has yet to consult the Office of the Executive Secretary on the issue, but assured that such matters have been "taken into consideration."

"I will have to consult with them if the head of the ICTO will take over as chairman of the advisory council… but you saw what happened during 2010, the first time that we’ve ever had automated elections, and hopefully it will become the norm for our elections in the years to come," said Ms. Valte in an interview aired over state-run dzRB.

For his part, Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo said he has endorsed someone to head the ICTO, which is currently led by officer-in-charge Fortunato T. dela Peña.

"I have already recommended the appointment of an undersecretary [at ICTO], and right now Undersecretary dela Peña, he can decide naman [anyway]. Automated elections will not be derailed due to a lack of official, we have an official familiar with Comelec," said Mr. Montejo in a phone interview.

Representatives from the Comelec could not be reached for comment.

Republic Act 9369, or the poll automation law, states that the advisory council can recommend "the most appropriate, secure, applicable and cost-effective technology" to be applied in the elections; provide advice and assistance in the review of the systems planning, inception, development, testing, operationalization, and evaluation stages; and provide advice and/or assistance in the identification, assessment and resolution of systems problems or inadequacies as may surface or resurface in the course of the bidding, acquisition, testing, operationalization, reuse, storage or disposition of equipment and/or resources, among other functions.

Council members represent ICT professional organizations. -- Johanna Paola D. Poblete