TaN: To make election playing field more equal, especially in the financial aspect, the omnibus election code must be revised and revamped to contain or reflect the following:
(1) centralize or democratize the campaign paraphernalia with a Comelec supervised election pamphlet — Standardized the distribution of candidate information in a Comelec-printed pamphlet (one for each position, practical only for national level, i.e., representative and higher) or Comelec-deputized-printer pamphlet (for local positions, i.e., governor and lower). Candidates must pay a fixed fee to the Comelec for the publication of whatever they want to be published and included in the election pamphlet that will be printed and distributed. The campaign information will be submitted to the Comelec by the candidate and can contain anything the candidate wants to convey to the voters but it must be understood that everything must fit or will be crammed into two pages only — it the information is voluminous, then the font size will be reduced until everything fits. The pamphlet will be distributed to the barangays and polling precincts for free. This ensures that all candidates get a minimum amount of exposure. Of course, the information submitted should not contain anything libelous or false — and double meanings should be avoided or at the candidate’s own risk. This way, every candidate shares in the expenses. The printing cost should be at cost or at least just a marginal profit for the inconvenience — i.e., the printing and all its related activities, the transportation and distribution, et al.
(2) make candidates accountable for all the actions and activities of his/her supporters — Currently, candidates are able to skirt accountability and responsibility by claiming that it was their supporters (or detractors) who were responsible so they are “guiltless”. This is not only childish but even insidious and voters should see this as irresponsibility on the part of the candidate. S/he should be able to influence and “control” his avid supporters for actions that will be detrimental to their candidate of choice. This not only includes the illegal postings (and others) but even the expenses incurred — which should be properly accounted for and audited and must observe the principle used in land valuation (i.e., the prevailing market value shall be applied if the declared expense is below so as to go around the issue of expenditure limitation, like for those who “volunteer” their helicopters or print election materials as a donation).
(3) a cap on donation or financial assistance per supporter, especially corporate backers with resources at the disposal of a candidate — There should be a limit as to how much an individual or group (as in a corporation or civic organization or loose association of friends) is permitted to contribute to the election coffers of a candidate. Moreover, the size of the contribution should reflect the actual capability of the donor to give because there are those who will use dummies and proxies to increase their contributions, thus defeating the purpose of the contribution cap. In addition, contribution should be an all-encompassing definition so as to avoid the possibility of using other terms to go around the limitation, like claiming that it is a donation and not a contribution. Any and all money in favor a candidate must be valued properly, regardless of whether it is cash or kind.
(4) open the precinct counting, which must be manually done, to the public, using a public tally board for all to see as the counting is in progress — This will minimize, but totally eradicate or eliminate cheating, because it only considers or controls the election process from the time the voter enters the precinct area and not what happens prior to that. This means that there could have been intimidation, bribery, threats, or whatever unlawful means applied to ensure a voter will vote a certain way. All that can be done is to control the voting environment within the precinct to ensure an environment of security and free of undue influence. It is in this light that it is of the utmost importance that the ballots be counted (and attested to) in full view of everyone. What happens after — in the canvassing — is not very important as tampering can be checked when the raw count or tally is available to and for all to see and keep. Any discrepancy or questions brought up can easily be settled by referring to the precinct tally — and this also eliminates or renders moot the (expensive) need to reopen the ballot boxes for a recount. The veracity of the raw tally is guaranteed by the fact that the data was exhibited to the audience in the polling precinct during the counting and the high probability that many parties will have obtained — by taking photographs or images of the tally at the end (or even throughout the entire duration) of the (manual) counting — a copy of the final tally per polling precinct. With everybody (or at least most people present at the tallying) possessing a copy of the final tally, all votes can be re-canvassed to get to the true final tally — and everyone should arrive at the same total. Any deviation can easily be traced and determined whether the miscount is an honest mistake or miscalculation or a deliberate attempt to alter and thwart the voters’ choice.
(5) delegate the automation segment to the canvassing and not the precinct counting, precinct counting/tally may be both manual and automated in full view of all viewers or at least manual — It is when there is no transparency that cheating takes place. In the manual system, where the votes are counted manually in full view, there is very little cheating — unless there has been intimidation, bribery, or threats to election officials prior on election day. It is only when the precinct totals are being consolidated and sent up the chain (to Congress or Comelec) that manipulation and tampering is conducted but all the efforts and schemes will fail if the precinct final tallies are made public and accessible to all anytime. It is this availability to all that is going to severely hinder the efforts of unscrupulous and despicable politicians in cheating their into office. [The mechanism for and of redress for losing cheated candidates is an exercise in futility and there has never been a case, that I can recall so please correct me if I am wrong, where an election protest case has successfully removed an incumbent cheating winner — at least not waiting until a week or two near the end of the term of office.]
This is all for now as I still have to ponder on more recommendations to ensure a cleaner and fairer and more just election — be it local or national.