Compel poll body to use paper trail feature, SC asked
SAYING the Commission on Elections (Comelec) violated the law twice in the past, former senator Richard Gordon on Monday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the commission to activate the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) feature of the automated election system in the May 2016 balloting.
In his petition for mandamus, Gordon said the Comelec should be compelled to implement the security features required under Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Elections System Law of which he was the principal author.
The poll body decided not to activate the VVPAT security feature, claiming that it could be used as a tool for vote-buying.
Activating this security feature, the commission noted, would also extend the voting period by seven hours.
The VVPAT feature allows voters to verify if their ballots were cast correctly through issuance of a receipt.
The receipt shows the names of the candidates chosen.
Some groups argued that the feature would serve as deterrent to election fraud and provide a means to audit stored electronic results.
“Several safeguards were put in place to ensure the sanctity of the ballot. Among these safeguards was the VVPAT, which consists of physical paper records of voter ballots as voters have cast them on an electronic voting system.
The voter-verified part refers to the fact that the voter is given the opportunity to confirm that the choices indicated on the paper record correspond to the choices that the voter has made in casting the ballot, Gordon pointed out.
“Under Section 6(e) of Republic Act 9369, which amends Section 7(c) of Republic Act 8436 [Automated Election System Law], one of the minimum system capabilities of the automated election system is that there must be a provision for Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The VVPAT is therefore a critical and indispensable security feature of the automated voting machine. Regrettably, however, the inclusion of this mandatory requirement under the automated election laws was previously and flagrantly violated by respondent during the 2010 and 2013 elections,” he said.
Gordon warned that the credibility of the May 9 local and national elections may suffer if the Comelec is again allowed to flout the law.
“The Comelec has been a recidivist in violating RA 9369. The last two automated elections in the country have not been credible because of [the poll body’s]failure to implement the safeguards such as presenting the source code for review, the use of digital signatures was disabled and the random manual audit of this continued failure, the integrity of the elections [has]not been restored as the automated elections law intended. This has got to stop,” he said.
“The right to suffrage is a powerful tool placed in the hands of every Filipino giving them the ability to change the course of our country’s future. Therefore, it is essential that the sanctity and credibility of our election system be continuously protected from threats putting its results in question. In order for the system to be protected, it is essential that implementation of various security systems must be complied with,” Gordon added.
A group of bishops, former military and police officials and IT experts also earlier said they will be filing a petition asking the High Court to compel the Comelec to use the VVPAT.
The Reform Philippines Coalition, led by seven bishops from various denominations including former Ligayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, said they will file a petition for mandamus in March.
“We are asking the Comelec to restore the VVPAT as this is the only way we are assured that our votes are counted. It will also act as our way of verifying if the canvassing is correct,” said Greco Belgica, who is running for senator under the tandem of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.