SENATOR Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Monday slammed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for seriously undermining the credibility of the coming elections with its refusal to comply with the Supreme Court (SC) order requiring the issuance of printed ballot receipts.
The poll body has warned that it may be forced to move the elections to June or resort to manual counting if it will follow the directive of the High Court.
With such pronouncements, Marcos said, “the Comelec is seriously undermining the credibility of the elections with its posturing.”
He noted that it is puzzling why the poll body is not only refusing to obey the order of the SC but is presenting alternatives that violate the 1987 Constitution and the Automated Election Law.
“I can’t understand why they are saying these things. [Comelec] Chairman Andres Bautista is a lawyer and the Constitution clearly says that the elections should be held on the second Monday of May. Also, the law says that electronic counting of votes is required for national and local elections,” Marcos said.
“You can’t help but think we are being led to a set-up,” he added.
“And who are going to have the advantage if there is hocus-PCOS? Of course not the independent candidates like me, not those who are leading in the surveys.”
PCOS refers to Precinct Count Optical Scan machine, which is a paper-based ballot voting and counting device that was first used in the Philippines in the 2010 elections.
Thousands of PCOS machines will be deployed for the May 9 polls.
Marcos said the Comelec should comply with the SC order and hold the elections on the second Monday of May.
“And the voting should not be manual,” the senator insisted.
LP to benefit
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) agreed that postponing the elections, besides being illegal, would only benefit candidates of the Liberal Party (LP).
In a statement, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said that instead of toying with the idea of least delaying the polls, the Comelec should “hear the growing clamor to address, in the short-term, the vulnerabilities in the automated election system (AES).”
“We oppose moves to postpone the elections, not simply because it is against the Constitution, and definitely not because we believe in its promise of change, but because a delay in the polls will ultimately favor the incumbent Aquino regime,” Reyes pointed out.
He said a delay “will allow the ruling regime to further use the huge resources of government in its favor.”
Already, the administration is being criticized for mobilizing funds under the Bottom-up Budgeting (BuB) program to boost chances of the LP bets led by Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
“A delay will allow administration bets to use this advantage to increase their ratings and influence the outcome of the automated polls. The public should be wary of this [delay]threat by Comelec and Smartmatic,” the Bayan leader said, referring to the foreign technology provider.
The poll body said it no longer has enough time to implement changes to comply with the SC order to activate the voters verification paper audit trail (VVPAT), one of the security features required under the automated election law.
In a special report by The Manila Times two weeks ago, several information technology experts claimed that the AES is not fool-proof and is, in fact, susceptible to manipulation.
Bautista had said the SC ruling turned the election timeline upside down, noting that the commission needs three months to prepare to carry out the SC order to issue voting receipts without compromising the credibility and orderliness of the May elections.
But Reyes disagreed, saying Bautista was only making the people “choose between a non-transparent and vulnerable automated election system or a delay in the scheduled polls.”
“We will have neither. Both scenarios are beneficial to the Aquino regime and its candidates. Instead of these threats, the Comelec should hear the growing clamor to address, in the short-term, the vulnerabilities in the AES,” he pointed out.
Reyes said these recent developments also highlighted the need for the eventual scrapping of the Smartmatic-controlled system.
But Bautista dismissed fears of a no election scenario, saying elections will be held but probably not on May 9.
He said the commission is considering all options, including postponing the elections, but added that it would be best if the High Court will reverse its ruling because overturning it will guarantee the holding of the polls on May 9 as scheduled.
“If we postpone the elections, we need a law from Congress. If we opt for manual polls, we would violate the Automated Election Law,” Bautista said.
“While the law mandates automated election, there are situations that we set aside the legal issues. The question is do we want orderly and credible elections?” he pointed out.
“I wanted to emphasize a point that the primary duty of the Comelec is not only to conduct elections but orderly and credible elections. If we cannot perform our mandate, I think we should seriously consider [not]holding [the]elections as scheduled given the challenge of [the]printing [of]voting receipts.”
With WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL