The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain on a petition filed by former senator Richard Gordon that seeks to compel the poll body to activate the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) feature of the automated election system to be used in the May 2016 elections.
The SC en banc directed the Comelec to file its comment within a non- extendable five days.
The comment will serve as a basis for the High Court whether to compel the poll body to grant the petition of Gordon for the implementation of Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Elections System Law.
In his petition for mandamus before the SC, he asked that the Comelec and technology provider Smartmatic must implement all the security features required under the law.
The poll body en banc had unanimously ruled against using the VVPAT, claiming it could be used as a tool for vote-buying and would also extend the voting period by seven hours.
The VVPAT system allows voters to verify if their ballots were cast correctly through the issuance of a receipt.
Showing names of candidates that they voted for, the system serves as a deterrent against election fraud and provides a means to audit stored electronic results.
“Under Section 6(e) of [RA] 9369, which amends Section 7(c) of [RA] 8436 [the Automated Election System Law], one of the minimum system capabilities of the automated election system is that there must be a provision for [VVPAT]. The VVPAT is therefore a critical and indispensable security feature of the automated voting machine. Regrettably, however, the inclusion of this mandatory requirement under the automated election laws was previously and flagrantly violated by respondent [Comelec] during the 2010 and 2013 elections,” Gordon pointed out.
He warned that Comelec has been violating RA 9369 time and again, from the last two automated elections.
Gordon pointed out that Sections 6(e), (f) and (n) of the law are clear and unequivocal in mandating the use of the VVPAT.
He said it is the duty of the Comelec to implement these sections of RA 9369.