A group of Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Evangelical and Muslim religious leaders called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to faithfully implement the minimum security provisions of RA 9369 or the Automated Election System (AES) law in the May elections.
FAITH.e Coalition (Inter-Faith Coalition for Fairness, Accuracy, Integrity, and Honesty in Elections), said their call is relevant in the light of the result of a recent survey by Pulse Asia that four out of 10 voters believe that there will be cheating in the coming elections.
“If the Commission will faithfully implement the security provisions mandated by law, this confidence-building measure will impact positively on the public’s perception of the credibility of our elections and the stability of our democracy—an invaluable gain we made as a united people 30 years ago in EDSA,” Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, said.
“On the other hand, if the Commission will continue to violate the law as it admitted and did so in 2010 and 2013, political instability could result from a seriously flawed electoral process. We do not want this to happen,” he added.
The minimum security provisions mentioned by the group includes source code review to prevent malicious or fraudulent instructions from being incorporated into the final version of the software to be used in the election system; ballot verification using UV detectors to prevent fake or spurious ballots from being utilized in the elections; digital signatures of the boards of election inspectors and boards of canvassers to prevent fake or spurious transmissions of election results; truly random manual audit to check the accuracy of the machine vote count; and voter verified paper audit trail or voter’s receipt to insure the accuracy of the reading and counting of the votes by the machines.
The Comelec decided not to activate the voter’s receipt feature since this can be used for vote buying.
“The Commission’s justification for refusing to give the voter’s receipt primarily on the ground of possible vote buying appears to be flimsy. The voter receipt is one of the ‘minimum system capabilities’ prescribed by RA 9369 or the Election Automation Law,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila.
“The Comelec has no prerogative to decide whether to implement the voter receipt or not. Its mandate is to fully implement the law,” Pabillo added.
Tendero said that the voter’s receipt is “the most effective means for the voting public to verify that the machines have read and counted their votes correctly.”
On Monday, February 22, former Senator Richard Gordon, one of the principal authors of the AES law, filed a petition for mandamus with the Supreme Court to compel the Comelec to print out and give the voter’s receipts. Senator Aquilino Pi-mentel, chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, also disclosed his intention to file a separate petition against the Comelec.