TWO shocking incidents involving the Commission on Elections in the past 10 days are strong indicators that our being able to participate in a clean, credible election in just under a month’s time is a vain expectation, and that the incumbent Aquino-led Liberal Party regime will stop at nothing to maintain its hold on power.
On April 1, a few days after the Comelec’s public website was hacked by activists demanding the restoration of all security features of the automated voting system – a demand we agree with wholeheartedly, though we must condemn the manner in which it was made – an enormous amount of information, essentially the entire Comelec voter registration database, was stolen and posted on the internet.
This past Saturday, as the month-long absentee voting period for 1.38 million registered OFW voters began, pictures quickly began circulating of ballots apparently designed to try to give the Liberal Party tandem of Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo an unfair advantage: unlike the other candidates listed, their names are shown highlighted in yellow, and both are listed as having the awkward and cringe-inducing middle name “Daang Matuwid,” while their opponents’ names are given in their proper simple forms.
Both of these incidents should be considered grave emergencies requiring immediate corrective action. The voter information records that were made public contain sensitive personal data of every registered voter in the country – names, addresses, voter identification numbers, and even fingerprints – that could be misused in a variety of ways. The altered ballots that were given to at least some overseas voters are patently illegal; election law clearly sets out the format of ballots for the precise reason that no candidate should be given an unfair advantage by being listed more prominently than the others.
Yet the Comelec has been completely dismissive in both cases. While the poll body did pass the matter of the data breach to the National Bureau of Investigation, or so the Comelec’s spokesman said, the seriousness of the security failure was explained away with the remark that “most of the data was public information anyway,” which is not only a lie, but entirely beside the point. As to the altered ballots, the Comelec simply refused to take any responsibility at all, claiming, “They didn’t come from us,” as if that is sufficient to correct the problem.
Taken together with the Comelec’s long record of obstructing the law that provides for fair and transparent automated elections – its stubborn insistence on using a discredited service provider and its unreliable system, its feigned inability to follow legally-required standards because of technical reasons, and its refusal to implement security features, which it only partially and grudgingly agreed to do after being summarily ordered to do so by the Supreme Court – a clear picture of an imminent election failure is emerging.
Rigging an election to give a preferred candidate a win, or rendering the election invalid through sabotage is no less an attempt to illegally seizing power than an armed coup d’etat, no less democratic than the imposition of martial law, and we absolutely cannot sit idly by and permit it to happen.
Even though doing so has been an exercise in futility so far, we again demand that Comelec strictly adhere to every provision of the Automated Election Law, and furthermore take immediate steps to conduct a swift, thorough, and transparent investigation of the latest anomalies. More than that, however, we call on the Filipino people to be vigilant: our freedoms and democratic rights are under mortal threat from a regime that serves only the narrow personal interests of its leaders and not the country, and clearly has no intention of honoring or even acknowledging the sentiment and will of the people.