THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) may be held liable for violating the directive of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all ballot boxes, among other election materials, in connection with the electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on the results of the vice presidential race.
In a three-page letter to Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista, Jose Amor Amorado, Marcos’ chief legal counsel, demanded an explanation from the Comelec En Banc on why it approved the recommendation of Commissioner Christian Robert Lim to back up files in secured digital (SD) cards and consolidating and canvassing system (CCS) laptop units that were used in the May 9 elections.
The recommendation of Lim was based on the request of Director Ester Villaflor-Roxas of the Election Records and Statistics Department, in view of the “stripping activity” that supposedly started on July 16 at the Comelec warehouse in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
The approval was contained in an En Banc Resolution dated July 12.
Stripping refers to the process of packing the vote counting machines (VCMs) and the
labeling of SD cards to ensure that they were the original ones packed with specific machines.
“As early as 12 July 2016, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), through the clerk of the Tribunal Atty. Felipa B. Anama, already issued the Precautionary Protection Order (PPO) to the Commission on Elections,” Amorado said.
“We would like to ask why the Commission had to issue the said Resolution approving the stripping of the VCM and CCS laptop units despite knowledge of the PPO directing the Commission to preserve and secure the integrity of all election documents and paraphernalia used in the May 2016 elections,” he added.
Amorado explained that even as the PPO was released on August 2 and received on the same date by the Comelec, the fact remains that the PET, as early as July 12, announced its issuance to the public.
“We would like to know the reason for your issuance of the Resolution which is clearly violative of the express and clear directive of the PET to preserve and secure the integrity of all VCM and CCS laptop units, among others,” Amorado added.
The Marcos camp likewise asked the Comelec if the “stripping activity” continues to date despite the issuance of the PPO last July 12.
“Lastly, we will highly appreciate it if you can please inform us of the measures you have taken regarding the directive of the PET to your office, as contained in the PPO, to ‘preserve and safeguard the integrity’ of all ballot boxes and their contents, voter registration records, audit and transmission logs, automated election equipment and other documents and paraphernalia used in all the 92,509 clustered precincts nationwide,” it further said.
In the same letter, Amorado also reminded the Comelec of its July 14 follow-up letter, asking why a certification on the source codes of the election system was only issued on April 30, beyond the three-month requisite period which he said was in violation of Section 11 of Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law.
He added that they did also not receive any formal response from the Comelec on their demand for a systems audit and request for information on the measures the poll body had taken to preserve all data in all servers, including but not limited to the central server, database server and any and all “intermediary servers, together will all routers, switches, listeners, among others.”
Bautista, for his part, clarified that the stripping of VCMs and CCS laptops has not yet started in deference to the PPO issued by the PET.
“Not yet. We have not started the stripping activity,” Bautista told reporters after yesterday’s En Banc meeting.
Asked if the stripping would change the data, Bautista said preventing changes was precisely the reason a backup was needed, “though not in its original form.”
“We will not violate the order of the SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal) and the PET.
Whatever the PET and SET would order us, we will comply,” Bautista added.
On the request of Marcos for a systems audit, Bautista said a contentious issue needed to be resolved first—who will conduct the audit.
“What we are suggesting is an impartial third party or expert. But what they (Marcos camp) wanted were their own IT (information technology) people,” the Comelec chief explained.