The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to issue receipts to voters during the May 9, 2016 elections.
The High Court, in a unanimous ruling, mandated the poll body to enable the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote counting machines (VCMs) to be used for the polls.
In granting a petition filed by a group led by former senator Richard Gordon, the tribunal
said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it decided not to activate the security feature.
Two similar petitions were filed by former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), but these were not consolidated in the Gordon case.
The SC said the poll body can issue guidelines to regulate the release and disposal of the issued receipts to ensure clean, honest and orderly elections.
Included in the guidelines is a system “ensuring that after voter verification, receipts should be deposited in a separate ballot box and not taken out of the precinct.”
In his petition for mandamus, Gordon said the Comelec and technology provider Smartmatic must implement the security features required under Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Elections System Law.
Gordon is the principal author of the law.
The VVPAT system allows the voters to verify if their ballots were cast correctly through the issuance of a receipt.
It serves as a deterrent against election fraud and provides a means to audit stored electronic results.
The camp of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte lauded the SC ruling, saying it “upholds the law on automated elections.”
“This would allay fears of the people that their votes will not be counted properly,” Peter Laviña, Duterte’s spokesman, said in a statement.
Laviña added that if this is implemented properly, it would “strengthen the credibility of the electoral process.”
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE