THE joint congressional oversight committee on Automated Elections System (JCOC-AES) on Thursday expressed disappointment over the problems bugging the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which they said could cause the postponement of polls in some areas.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the JCOC-AES, said he is worried over reports about incompatibilities in the systems used in the counting of votes, the delay in the printing of ballots and the source code that was recently turned over to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
“All these issues are very disappointing because these are all happening when we are
already in the campaign period, which means that we have less than 90 days from the elections” to resolve all these, Pimentel noted.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, also alarmed by the reported glitches, said these problems show that the preparations for the upcoming electoral exercise had not been smooth.
“Syempre lahat kami nag-aalala baka kung anong (mangyari). Ang naging problema is (the) source code, e yan ang punot-dulo ng lahat, yung source code (Of course we are all worried. The problem is the source code, that’s the root cause of it all),” Marcos said.
The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) expressed fears that the glitches in the source code might prompt the Comelec to invoke its powers to suspend the national and local elections.
Pimentel said that under the law, all systems to be used in the election should have already been certified and ready at this time.
The senator said that he also received information that the machines rejected the ballots
during the test conducted by the poll body.
These problems, he noted, will be tackled during the JCOC-AES hearing set for Feb. 16.
Pimentel said the panel will ask officials of the Comelec to explain the incompatibilities found between the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) in the source code and the Election Management System (EMS) and present their solutions during the hearing.
“How come it took a third party, the certifying agency SLI, to discover the problem? How come Smartmatic did not voluntarily disclose the problem?” he wondered. Pimentel will also ask the Comelec to submit its original and updated timetable to determine the delay encountered by the commission on its preparation for the May 9 elections.
Pimentel, however, said that Comelec officials seem to be deliberately delaying the printing of ballots in order to postpone the elections.
“I don’t think the officials of the Comelec will allow themselves to go down in history as the most incompetent officials if they fail to hold the election in May. I’m sure and I’m hoping that it is not the case,” the senator added.
Deliberate or not, UNA expressed hopes that the technical problems will not compel the Comelec to suspend the elections.
“We hope that these issues and concerns being raised in relation to the delays and glitches will not be used as reasons to allow the Comelec to invoke their power to suspend the polls or force them to go back to manual voting,” UNA spokesperson Mon Ilagan said in a statement.
Under the law, the Comelec can invoke Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code to postpone elections “in case of violence, terrorism, force majeure and other analogous causes.”
The Comelec had hinted that some Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines were malfunctioning and failing to correctly read the ballots.
On Tuesday, NAMFREL said that Comelec is running behind schedule in the printing of ballots, and other technical problems compounding the delay may force the Comelec to suspend elections in selected regions or localities.
“Dalangin nating lahat na maging mapayapa, matapat, matiwasay at malinis na eleksyon sa darating na Mayo 9–but with the reports of delays, deliberate or not, are a cause for alarm. It seems that someone is already laying the predicate and some do allow these problems to surface to give them enough window to manipulate the elections,” Ilagan noted.
“We should not allow sinister parties to manipulate the elections, and Comelec must see beyond these delays and glitches and probe if there are quarters from within who are present to influence and exploit the situation,” he added.
“It is within the mandate of the Comelec to make sure that the conduct of the elections is fair, credible, honest, orderly and peaceful. The term of President Aquino will be ending in a few months; this would be the best legacy he could leave behind,” Ilagan said.
Marcos urged voters to be vigilant amid the reports on machine glitches.
“The best guard against any cheating is still vigilance. That’s why we are telling our supporters to be extra vigilant because the more people are keeping watch, the harder it will be to carry out any sinister plot,” he said.