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Biz Buzz: Record paper trail

/ 12:10 AM May 09, 2016

TODAY’S election could set a global record of sorts for having the longest paper trail in the history of all elections in the Philippines, if not the world.

Laid down one after the other, 55 million paper ballots measuring approximately 50 cm each and 2 million rolls of 20-meter long thermal paper are enough to circle the globe 1.5 times. This excludes the tons of paper used for posters and sample ballots nationwide. Now that’s a lot of paper—and trees, for that matter.

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While the whole world is going paperless, the Philippines seems to be heading the opposite direction, at least elections-wise. This stems from some Pinoys’ skepticism about automated elections that, ironically, is in stark contrast when it comes to entrusting money to Internet banking or, say, riding planes flying on autopilot.

But this heavy reliance on “auditable” paper trails could actually serve a good purpose: It would put to shame the skeptics (read: Losing politicians and election equipment vendors disguised as NGOs) who have thrown everything—including the kitchen sink—to discredit the Comelec’s vote counting machines (VCMs). Receipts would also serve as basis to ensure that losers (who always claim they were cheated) can go back to the marked ballots and 2.7 million copies of election returns during post-audit.

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With regard to the VCM software, Comelec gave all political parties more than enough time to get their own IT experts to review the machines’ source code, or human-readable instructions that tell the system how it should work. There are, of course, a plethora of other security measures that give voters a fairly good assurance that whatever votes are cast would be counted correctly and transmitted securely. These include accuracy tests, international certification, 256-bit encryption and the like.

But how would voters know that almost 70,000 kilometers of printed paper trails won’t go to waste and actually match votes cast? After a battery of tests and public demonstrations, the Comelec and its partner Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. have so far shown that VCMs are 100-percent accurate and that claims or speculation of vote-rigging or padding are baseless. In the end, “the test of the pudding is in the eating.” So go out, choose and vote wisely. Daxim L. Lucas

Awkward

ENTERTAINMENT has been a core part of ABS-CBN Corp.’s business for decades so it might have been a bit awkward for the company’s management to face a less-than-entertaining query from one its shareholders at its recent annual meeting.

During the open forum part of the meeting, one shareholder asked ABS-CBN chair Eugenio “Gabby” L. Lopez III about the prospect of Sen. Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. winning the vice presidential race in today’s elections. Pre-election surveys have Marcos tied with administration bet Leni Robredo for the post.

It’s no secret that the Lopez family suffered greatly under the regime of Marcos’ father, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. Their business interests, including ABS-CBN, were seized, and Gabby’s own father was jailed. ABS-CBN resumed broadcasting under the Lopezes after a popular revolt in 1986 ended the dictator’s rule.

Apparently, the ABS-CBN chair was expecting such a question and responded with a non-committal “wala lang” (it’s fine). “This is a democracy,” he added, noting that there was nothing they could do if Marcos was the choice of the people.

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That was handed relatively well. Too bad members of the press had no chance to elaborate since Gabby Lopez skipped the traditional briefing following the meeting.

While not unusual for top officials to head off to another event, the ABS-CBN chair in previous years always made it a point to attend. After all, his views on the local TV industry are valuable since he helped shape this. Perhaps the elder Lopez just wanted to make room for his young cousin Carlo Katigbak, who started as ABS-CBN’s president and CEO in January this year. With challenges up ahead, it should be interesting to see how this new generation of Lopezes steers the company in the years to come.  Miguel R. Camus

E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, ballot, Biz Buzz, Business, Elections, paper trail, receipts
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