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Augusto Lagman is new Comelec Commissioner

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.8

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President Aquino appointed veteran IT expert Augusto C. Lagman as the sixth Comelec commissioner. The appointment was announced by deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in Malacañang on April 27. "He is a known expert in the field of IT and he has been very involved in the automated elections. We know that he has spoken out on so many issues relating to the automated elections when it came to the commission, and we are confident that he can discharge the duties of his office as capably, as confidently as he has in the past," Valte said. She said the competence of Lagman "essentially clinched the decision of [President Aquino] to put him in the Comelec." Mr. Lagman would serve in the Comelec until February 2, 2018.

Lagman is a convenor of the Movement for Good Governance, lead convenor of TransparentElections.org.ph, and former president of Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP) and the Philippine Computer Society (CSP). He chairs Vinta Systems, Inc., a developer of artificial intelligence-oriented software products, and is a director of STI College in Recto and Biometrix Technologies, Inc. Mr. Lagman is the founding chairperson of STI and various STI campus colleges.

Mr. Lagman joined NAMFREL as a volunteer in 1983 and became a member of its National Council from 1992 until 2007, and also starting December 2010 prior to his appointment to the Comelec. As head of the Systems Committee, he managed the implementation of NAMFREL’s automated parallel counts (Operation Quick Count) from 1984 to 2007 (ten national elections).

In 1993, Mr. Lagman was part of the team organized by then Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod that studied the various options available in automating elections. This led to the use of automation in the 1996 ARMM election and the enactment of the automation law (R.A. 8436) in 1997. During the procurement of voting machines for use in the 2004 elections, Mr. Lagman co-led a group that exposed the anomalous bidding process conducted by the Comelec. He was one of the eight individuals who petitioned the Supreme Court in 2003 to
nullify the P1.3 billion Comelec contract for the acquisition of Automated Counting Machines (ACMs). The SC ruled in favor of the group’s petition. In 2006, he was part of the Technical Working Group that helped craft the amendments to R.A. 8436, resulting in the enactment of the current election automation law, R.A. 9369.

The appointment of Mr. Lagman completes the seven-member Comelec en banc, with Atty. Sixto Brillantes as chairperson. Among the challenges that the Comelec now faces are the electoral protests currently filed before the commission in connection with the May 2010 automated election; the preparations for the ARMM election scheduled for August 2011, and whether it should be automated or not, using Smartmatic's PCOS machines; the question of whether to use again Smartmatic's machines for the 2013 elections, or replace them with locally sourced technology; and the continuing registration of voters that would involve the use of biometrics.

Being the only non-lawyer in the en banc, Lagman said he would form a legal staff of election law experts to help him in the adjudication of election-related cases. “The [Comelec] is a collegial body. I’m sure there’s going to be a healthy discussion, and as I would listen to them when it comes to questions on law, I hope they would listen to me when it comes to questions on technology,” he said in a media interview..
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