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Rural Folks, Indigenous Peoples try on PCOS Machines

MANILA, Philippines
19 February 2010

MANILA, Philippines – With less than three months to go before the country embarks on its first ever national-level automated elections, a group of farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and community leaders were presented with a Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machine that will be used during the May 10, 2010 national and local polls.

The Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), the country’s oldest NGO, along with its partners the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CMGG), organized a “Voter Education Forum and the Automated Election Systems” last February 19, 2010 at the PRRM National Headquarters.

The event was highlighted by a demonstration of the key features of the PCOS machine by COMELEC Information Officer Leo Lim to the rural groups. Discussion points on the Automated Election System (AES), rights of voters and the political situation were provided by Atty. Luie Guia and Mr. Ed dela Torre.

“We are very excited to vote using the machines but we are not sure how to do it. We need to know more about automation. How will our votes be counted?” says Richard Afidchao from Nueva Vizcaya.

“Voter education and actual demonstration of the machine is of critical importance as we prepare for the elections, especially for IPs and rural communities who may have apprehensions in exercising their right to vote under an automated process,” said PRRM President Isagani R. Serrano.

Mr. Serrano added that while automation proves to be successful in other countries, it has yet to be tried in the Philippines and could potentially lead to confusion among the people. “The diverse culture of Filipinos in different regions may have some impact in the way they participate in the automated polls,” he quipped.

“While there are a lot of questions regarding the AES, we believe that many, if not all of the fears can be allayed with proper information and vigilance from the citizens,” added Beckie Malay, PRRM’s director for Advocacy and Development Cooperation.

PRRM and CMGG hope that the event will encourage further dissemination of information and spur discussions among the participants regarding the counting machines as well as its sensitivities to the rights of the people, particularly among the IP and rural sectors.

The event is made possible with the support from the European Union (EU) under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). It is an activity-component of the project entitled “Enhancing Civil Society in Electoral and Other Political and Democratic Processes” funded by the EU-EIDHR. (30)

For more information, please contact Mr. Patrick Adams San Juan, Development Cooperation and Media Relations Associate, PRRM

+63917.582.3341

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