THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it will investigate alleged poll irregularities earlier exposed by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd that supposedly altered the results of the 2016 national elections.
James Jimenez, Comelec spokesman, said the commission will conduct its own investigation and will coordinate with Sotto who on Wednesday called for a congressional inquiry into the election anomalies, which include early transmission of votes and foreign access into the election server.
“Kailangan tignan natin yung datos na hawak ni Sen. Sotto kasi yung access, maari namang yung tinutukoy niya ay napapadala ng datos mula sa atin [We have to take a look at the documents in the hands of Sen. Sotto. Perhaps the access he was talking about could have been the sending of data to us],” Jimenez said.
“The Comelec shares Senator Sotto’s call to determine the accuracy of these allegations. The commission understands the grave importance of this matter and will, itself, strive to determine the veracity of these claims,” he added.
Sotto said he got information about the poll irregularities from “an impeccably reliable source.”
Malacañang also prodded the Comelec to investigate Sotto’s expose.
“Sana po maimbestigahan po ito ng Comelec at ang Senado rin naman imbestigahan ‘yan (I hope the Comelec and the Senate will make an investigation),” Roque told reporters.
“Hayaan po natin silang mag-imbestiga at titignan din po natin kung uutusan din ng Presidente ang sariling investigative branches ng gobyerno (So let’s allow them to investigate and let’s see if President [Rodrigo Duterte] will also direct other government branches to look into it),” he added.
Jimenez said to determine the veracity of Sotto’s claims, the Comelec needs to have “the complete picture” particularly on the transmission of vote results.
He added that the poll body will ask Smartmatic, who provided the automated election system that has been in use since 2010, to explain if there were problems in the voting process in the 2016 elections.
“We have to be more careful ahead of next year’s May elections; it is important to keep the work going,” Jimenez said.
He said the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines provided by Smartmatic were configured to read actual ballots.
Sotto said a Senate investigation would determine if poll irregularities did occur.
“It is high time that the proper Senate committee investigate the Automated Election System and subpoena
Comelec and Smartmatic to provide the relevant data, as regards these allegations,” he said in a privilege speech on Tuesday.
“I believe that the outcome of any investigation on this matter will surely lead to more accurate and transparent
system and results for the coming 2018 elections,” he added.
The Senate electoral reforms committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon has yet to act on Sotto’s claims.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., on Wednesday commended Sotto for bringing out the election anomalies to the attention of the public.
Marcos, in a statement, said Sotto’s expose proved that he is no longer a voice in the wilderness.
“Other patriotic leaders and stakeholders have seen the extent of the conspiracy, interference and manipulation of the election results by Smartmatic and have begun to speak out,” Marcos, who filed an election protest against
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, added.
Marcos had claimed that poll fraud marred the results of the vice presidential vote.
He again questioned the Comelec’s decision to award Smartmatic the contract to handle the elections next year “despite all the evidence of massive cheating.”
“We have never understood Comelec’s insistence in again awarding Smartmatic despite the multitude transgressions attributed to it,” he said.
“All the issues raised by Sen. Sotto need to be investigated and all the questions he asked need to be answered by both Smartmatic and the Comelec,” he added.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also expressed the need to resolve all issues related to the 2016 elections before the holding of the midterm elections next year.
“I filed already a resolution after I assumed the role as minority leader and I’ve been questioning the result of the 2016 election,” Suarez said in a news conference on Wednesday.
“And on record, I confronted the Comelec chief then, [Andres] Bautista, during the budget hearing ng 2018 and I asked him and I gave him the list of 17,000 precincts where our candidate got a zero vote,” he added.
Suarez suggested that the country return to manual elections, a proposal that was supported by Buhay party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr.
“I would go for manual. Pag manual kasi, nababantayan ng botante, ng partido. ‘Yung…so-called computerized election, walang bantay e (Because if it’s manual, voters and parties and guards the votes. If it is computerized, there are no guards),” the lawmaker said.
WITH JEFF ANTIPORDA, REINA TOLENTINO AND ARIC JOHN SY CUA