WITH the Supreme Court (SC) having ruled in a decision unanimously approved by 13 Justices, the Comelec will, we pray, now at last follow the Automated Election System (AES) Law (RA 9369. The High Court specifically wishes the Comelec to implement the law’s requirement that voting process include the printing of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) or Voter’s Receipt (VR).
The SC ruled, 13-0, to grant the petition of former Sen. Richard Gordon, Chairman of Bagumbayan – Volunteers for a New Philippines, Inc., and it ordered the Comelec to enable the VVPAT feature of the Vote Counting Machines (the new names of the notorious PCOS machines) and comply with the minimum system capabilities of the machines stipulated in Sections 6(e), (f) and (n) of Republic Act No. 9369. These minimum capabilities are for there to be the verified paper audit trail, for there to be a method to audit the system (verify the correctness of reported and transmitted election results) and for the Filipino voter to be given a system to find out if the machine recorded his/her vote accurately.
Former senator Gordon is the principal sponsor and author of the AES Law. He referred to the Comelec as a “recidivist” for twice (in 2010 and 2013) committing the felony of violating the AES Law by removing all the machine safeguards to ensure fraud-free and accurate counting and reporting, such as the performance of the source code review, the digital signatures of the Board of Canvassers and Board of Election Inspectors, the VVPAT, the ultraviolet scanning of the ballots, and random manual audit to countercheck the machines’ output.
Months before the 2010 elections, AES Watch and other election watchdogs raised the issue of these safeguards being implemented with Comelec. The Comelec commissioners, specially their chairmen then, refused to listen.
Dick Gordon, through his counsel Atty. Rodolfo Reyes, summarized the Comelec’s “continuous, deliberate and unabated pattern of deception” in the words of our columnist Nelson Celis as follows.
• Comelec bids out the automated voting system on the basis of the requirements of law, and purchases/leases the equipment accordingly;
• Comelec conducts public demonstrations using the machine with all the security features, leading the public to believe the poll is compliant with the law;
• Then the Comelec commissioners quietly agree among themselves not to enable the security features of the machine;
• A few weeks before the elections, the Comelec then formally announces and issues its illegal decision to disable the PCOS machines’ security features.
• When someone complains, the Comelec then says it’s too late to carry out the steps to comply with the election law and at the same time warn that the elections would have to be postponed and moved to another date if the safeguard requirements of the law were followed.
Today, all seems quiet on the voting-sytem and voting-process front. All because Comelec seems to have begun to do the right and legal thing.
But still the Comelec tells us that only some of the safeguards will be implemented.
And as readers can see in the LFIT! column (this time written by Nelson Celis) there are still important issues that must be properly addressed.
We beg Chairman Bautista and the commissioners: Please carry out ALL the safety measures required by law. And truly do the right thing.