Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought the re-codification of the country’s election laws not only to make it cohesive as a body of laws, regulations and rules but also reflective of the changing electoral landscape and emerging election technologies.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1796 establishing a multi-sectoral Election Code Recodification Committee (ECRC) tasked to prepare the draft of the new election code.
“As a republic democratic country, election is the greatest means in which our citizens express their sovereignty. It goes without saying that the conduct of free and orderly election is essential to the very survival of our country,” she said.
“It is thus important that we make sure that a reliable election system is in place to ensure that the will of the people is seasonably expressed and properly appreciated so as to avoid a government that serves without sufficient mandate,” she added.
The present Omnibus Election Code (OEC) was promulgated by virtue of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 sometime in 1985 when elections of national and local officials were done manually and the number of voters was only around 30 million.
The 33-year-old OEC has been outdated when the country had embraced the automation of the election system during the national and local elections in 2010, using the same technology again in 2013 and 2016 elections.
Since the promulgation of the 1987 Constitution, the former justice secretary pointed out that various election-related laws have been introduced, including the partylist system law, the initiative and referendum, and the absentee-voting law.
“These are all new concepts on suffrage, which were introduced in the Constitution to make our elections more inclusive and our democracy more participative,” she said.
“We now live in the time when the technological advances gave us better ways to ascertain voter identities through biometrics. We are now also able to receive and tabulate votes nationally in ways much faster than ever through the automated system of elections,” she added.
Under her proposed measure, De Lima said the proposed ECRC shall be composed from various sectors tasked to study, conduct consultations, and review the provisions of all the existing election laws and submit its report to Congress.
“It is best if a multi-sectoral consultative committee of experts be convened to prepare the draft code which will be the basis for deliberations in Congress. This way, our legislature, and in turn, our country, will benefit from the expertise of the legal luminaries or technical experts on elections laws and processes,” she said.
Under SB 1796, the proposed ECRC shall be under the administrative supervision of the Comelec, to be headed by a retired Comelec commissioner, and assisted by three experts on the field of election law or electoral processes, a representative nominated by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, a representative nominated by accredited election watchdog organizations, and four representatives to be nominated by Congress.