High Court: Hold oral arguments on VVPAT

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The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered oral arguments on the appeal over the Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote counting machines (VCMs) that will be used in the May 9, 2016 elections.

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During the last en banc deliberations of the justices for the month before their Baguio Summer Session in April, the SC issued the order after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) sought a reconsideration of the court’s ruling directing the poll body to print voters’ receipts that must correspond to the votes cast.

“The court can call for oral arguments at any time [it deems necessary],” SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief Theodore Te said.

The oral arguments will be on Thursday, March 17, and “will be on very limited issues.”

An advisory will be released by the SC shortly.

In the motion for reconsideration filed by the Comelec, through the Office of the Solicitor General, it warned that failure of elections is possible with the “far-reaching implications of its ruling on the conduct of the elections.”

“There is strong likelihood that the May 2016 elections will fail if the voting receipt feature is enabled by the Comelec at this very late stage of the project,” it pointed out.

The Comelec stated that the use of the VVPAT would result in “additional time of at least two hours and 10 minutes” for all voters to leave the VCMs and longer lines “which may discourage voters from exercising their right of suffrage.”

It then asked the High Court to reconsider its March 8 decision and dismiss a petition for mandamus filed by former senator Richard Gordon for lack of merit.

The poll body pleaded that the SC “allow the Comelec to conduct a demonstration of the VCMs before members of the honorable court at the soonest possible time, if necessary.”

The VVPAT system allows the voters to verify if their ballots were cast correctly through the issuance of a receipt.

The receipt would show the names of candidates that they voted for.

It serves as a deterrent to election fraud and provides a means to audit stored electronic results.

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