THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been using the just-concluded no bio, no boto (no biometrics, no vote) campaign and the proposed mall voting as a ruse to divert public attention from the more pressing issue of ensuring the integrity and credibility of the counting machines that will be used in the 2016 synchronized local and national polls, according to election watchdog Reform Philippines Coalition (PRC).
“The no bio, no boto [drive]is a clear act of sabotaging RA [Republic Act] 10367, and also the mall voting, which is another way of violating BP [Batas Pambansa] 881,” Glenn Chong, coalition spokesman, said.
RA 10367 provides for mandatory biometrics voter registration, while BP 881, or the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, governs election of all public officers and, to the extent appropriate, all referenda and plebiscites.
Chong explained that the Comelec violated the intent and purpose of RA 10367, which is to get rid of flying voters or double or multiple registrants, when it scrapped the biometric voter verification system (VVS) and realigned the P727.214 million fund to pay for the lease of 93,997 units of brand new Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines, a newer version of the much-maligned PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines that will be used in the 2016 elections.
Since Congress has not appropriated funds for the OMR machines in the 2015 national budget, the RPC spokesman said, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista realigned the VVS fund in violation of the law.
“Thus the purpose of the law and the law itself have been effectively defeated and sabotaged by this clear act of the Comelec in gross violation of the General Appropriations Law,” Chong, a lawyer and former congressman, explained.
He pointed out that the poll body’s plan to turn malls into voting centers is a violation of Section 155 of BP 88.
Section 155 states, “No polling place shall be located in a public or private bulding owned, leased or occupied by any candidate or of any person who is related to any candidate within the four civil degrees of consanguinity or affinity, or any officer of the government or leader of any political party, group or faction, nor in any building or surrounding premises under the actual control of a private entity, political party or religious organization. In places where no suitable public building is available, private school buildings may be used as polling places. No polling place shall be located within the perimeter of or inside a military or police camp or reservation or within a prison compound.”
“The law is very clear… Politicians are not allowed to own, possess or occupy any portion of the mall. Does the Comelec have the list of stalls inside the malls owned by politicians? Nothing,” Chong said.
But Bautista pointed out that “the law is not absolute,” saying what is prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code is the use of private facilities that are owned by candidates or by their relatives.
Thus, he explained, the Comelec cannot use the facilities of the Gateway Mall in Quezon City because it is owned by the family of Manuel Roxas 2nd, the administration’s standard-bearer.
Chong dismissed Bautista’s explanation and even challenged the Comelec chief to a debate on issues the PRC has raised.
Earlier, the coalition sought the restoration of security features of the PCOS machines that the Comelec removed during the 2010 and 2013 elections–the ballot verification or ultra violet detectors, the source code review, the voter paper verification audit trail and the digital signature.
“Outright removal or effective dilution of a security feature will steal your vote without your knowing it. Since there is no forcible entry, you will not have any reason to doubt that your vote has been stolen,” Chong said.