MEMBERS of the Automated Elections System (AES) Watch and Kontra Daya have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and two poll commissioners in connection with the use of “flawed” precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the May 2013 elections.
Despite their immunity from criminal proceedings, Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph were charged before the Ombudsman for purposes of impeachment.
The AES Watch said the three poll officials should be investigated for their “abysmal failure to protect the sanctity of the ballot in their conduct of the May 2013 elections.”
Through complainants Fr. Joe Dizon, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, and Sr. Mary John Mananzan, the group asked the Ombudsman to probe the officials for any serious misconduct, which may be a ground for the filing of a verified complaint for impeachment.
“The proceedings may later on turn into a criminal investigation, once the Comelec officers retire, resign or are removed from office,” they said.
The group’s counsel, Harry Roque, said Brillantes and the two commissioners knew of the squabble between technology provider Smartmatic and its erstwhile partner, Dominion Voting Systems Inc. but they still decided to use buy the PCOS machines.
They alleged that the corporate legal battle was already made known to the poll officials and that they already knew that no upgrade would be done to the PCOS machines because Dominion already announced that they would not cooperate with Smartmatic.
In September 2012, Smartmatic filed a case for breach of contract against Dominion, the maker of the PCOS software “for failing to place in escrow the required source code, hardware design, and manufacturing information.”
“Pero bagaman na alam na nila ito ay pinilit pa nila na gamitin ang PCOS machines [Despite this, they still insisted the use of PCOS]. They already know that the PCOS machines won’t be used legally because this has been forbidden by Dominion. This is the reason why the use of PCOS failed,” Roque said.
AES Watch and Kontra Daya said the advisory council of the Comelec recommended against the re-use of the PCOS machines for the mid-term elections.
But Brillantes and his two commissioners rejected the recommendation. Instead, the Comelec issued in March 2012 three resolutions approving the purchase of the machines.
Roque said the three officials should be liable for their decision to purchase the PCOS machines when in fact acquisition was only optional.
The lawyer added that Brillantes admitted that 18,000 PCOS machines failed to transmit and the failure in transmission was not on the part of the telecommunication companies.
The group pointed out that Brillantes already knew that the machines had to be maintained but because of the Smartmatic-Dominion disputes, the upgrade of PCOS software could not push through.
“What we are saying is that they already knew what happened [between Smartmatic and Dominion]. They already knew that they will use faulty machines and yet binuwis pa rin nila yung demokrasya natin dito [they messed with our democracy],” Roque said.
The groups said that despite the Comelec officials’ immunity from criminal charges, the Ombudsman should investigate them and recommend the filing of impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.
Sought for comment, Tagle said that he could not still give a statement as he “has no copy yet of what they filed.”
The election watchdog also asked President Benigno Aquino 3rd to compel Smartmatic to refund the money paid by the Comelec due to the failure of thousands of PCOS machines to transmit election results, dysfunctional compact flash (CF) cards and other glitches.
The amount paid by the government for the questionable purchase of the machines in March 2012 for at least 23 percent of those that failed should be returned, AES Watch added.
The refund, it added, should be on top of the costs of the machines that bogged down, faulty CF cards and modems and other system failures.