N ADDITION to the peace talks between the Arroyo ad-ministration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),and the resurgent Mindanao conflict, the press also re-ported the first fully automated elections in the AutonomousRegion in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) last Aug. 11.
The “successful” ARMM elec-tion was significant since it was adry-run for the first automated presi-dential elections in 2010, how itmight be conducted and the prob-lems that may arise from it.The
reviewed thecoverage of the ARMM elections bythree Manila-based newspapers (the
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine Star
);the primetime news programs
TV Patrol World
; and someonline news sites from July 21 – Aug.20.Most of the reports did explainthe procedures for the automatedelections, and pointed out its impor-tance not only for the 2010 presi-dential elections, but for all futureelections. As in the 2007 barangayelections, the press provided enoughinformation on the ARMM elections.What were lacking, however, were theexplanatory reports that could havedeepened the public’s appreciationof the event.
Most of the reports focused theCommission on Elections’ (Comelec)using two kinds of automated count-ing machines—the Optical MediaReader (OMR) and the Direct Record-ing Electronic system (DRE)—for the2008 local elections in ARMM.
,for instance, explained the new vot-ing system through an infographiclast Aug. 10. The infographic com-pared the two devices, and plottedin a map the location where eachwould be used. The DRE was usedin Maguindanao, while the four otherARMM provinces used the OMR. Al-though published after the elec-tions, the
also provided adiagram on how to use the two kindsof voting machines (Aug. 13, p. A19).Other reports explained that thisis the third and most successful at-tempt in computerizing the elec-tions. The
’s “In the know”sidebar explained that the Comelechad previously employed automatedcounting machines in the ARMMelections—the first time in 1996,and the second in May 1998. Itnoted the problems the Comelec ex-perienced in both efforts.Most news media mentionedthe technical problems encoun-tered by voters and elections offic-ers. Last Aug. 11,
reported how some machinesfailed to work or overheated, butwere easily replaced.The Aug. 20
special report noted thatthe machines “prevented cheating in the counting and canvassing of votes” but failed to stop vote-buy-ing and other forms of cheating. Thiswas based on the report of the for-eign observers of Asian Network forFree Elections (Anfrel).It also provided last Aug. 10 atimeline for the elections from thecreation of the ARMM in 1989, aswell as previous data from theComelec and the pre-election reportby Anfrel (http://news.abs-cbn.com/research/08/10/08/fast-facts-armm-elections). Its Aug. 7 electionprimer “Lesson for the ARMM polls:New problems accompany electionautomation” was also helpful in put-ting the ARMM elections from theperspective of the automation expe-riences of other countries.
discussed in itssidebar section the significance of the ARMM elections (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112915/significance-of-the-ARMM-elec-tions). It also provided a timeline of the poll automation attempts since1992 (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112897/poll-automation-timeline).
Postponing the ARMM elections
The news media also reportedthe attempt by the Arroyo adminis-tration to postpone the ARMM elec-tions. The reports explained thatMalacañang wanted to accommo-date the request of the MILF to post-pone the elections in view of the cre-ation of the Bangsamoro JuridicalEntity under the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain(MOA-AD) aspect of the 2001 Tripolipeace agreement.A July 23 report by
forexample said that the reason behindthe request was that if the signing of the MOA pushed through, the MILFand the GRP would have to wait forthe end of the terms of the newARMM officials before they can electBJE officials.
The press reported how the on-going hostilities between the MILFand government troops were affect-ing the conduct of the ARMM elec-tions. The firefights between themembers of the MILF and the mili-tary heightened in August after theaborted signing of the MOA-AD be-tween the MILF and the Philippinegovernment.Despite the Comelec’s claim thatelections was “generally peaceful”amid the ongoing hostilities, the pressalmost uniformly pointed out that vot-ing in some of the provinces was af-fected by the hostilities. In an exclu-sive report,
showed how troopsdelivering ballots to the town of Tipo-tipo, Basilan were attacked by allegedMILF and Abu Sayyaf forces.Others reported on the failure of elections and incidents of ballotsnatching and cheating during theAug. 11 poll. Most reports comparedit to past elections saying there wasless violence and cheating.
nila-based media, a problem thathas been noted in past
Discussing the MOA-AD
The draft of the MOA-AD be-tween the government and theMILF entered the public sphere af-ter several news organizationspublished the details in their pa-pers and websites. But the press didnot adequately explain how thedraft was finalized, the exact natureof the meetings on the issue of an-cestral domain, and whether civilsociety organizations and variouslocal stakeholders had been reallyconsulted or not.“In the first place we have toconsider the element of confiden-tiality within which the peaceprocess was conducted. This al-ready limited the flow of infor-mation from the negotiations tothe media,” Rudy Rodil, formervice-chair of the governmentpeace negotiating panel and anexpert on Mindanao history,said in an e-mail interviewwith
LITO OCAMPOLITO OCAMPO